Originally appeared at Inc.
Leaders are responsible for setting and managing goals for their teams. For most people, this means following a well-established process of designing SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. This approach has been used by many leaders to execute strategy andtrack performance, but is the conventional thinking on goal-setting doing enough to communicate each team member’s promise and potential?
According to researchers at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, SMART goals undervalue ambition, focus narrowly on individual performance, and ignore the importance of discussing goals throughout the year. Instead, they recommend that leaders focus on goals that are FAST–frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent.
Goals should be frequently discussed.
Depending on the nature of your work, realities can shift quickly: A sudden pivot in a project, unforeseen changes in team leadership, and new market conditions or client requests call for priorities to be reconsidered and realigned. Waiting for a capstone event (year-end reviews) to address an employee’s goals is simply not sufficient.
Consider setting and discussing goals on a quarterly basis. Several high-profile companies, including Microsoft, IBM, and Accenture, have recently transformed their traditional performance appraisal process to incorporate ongoing discussions on how employees are doing against their goals, which keeps these objectives top of mind throughout the year.
Goals should be ambitious.
Setting goals that are “safe” may allow employees to feel good about their progress, but it may also deter them from the trial-and-error experimentation required to grow. By establishing ambitious goals for their team, leaders set a tone that promotes risk-taking and conveys faith in the abilities of others.
Asking people to stretch past their comfort zone may require leaders to seriously reconsider how rewards are tied to work. A 40-year study on motivation found that intrinsic motivation–defined by a genuine sense of purpose and challenge–was nearly six times more effective than external incentives in motivating people to complete complex, creative tasks. People may be more willing to take risks in their work when they don’t fear repercussions in their jobs.
Goals should be specific.
Translating goals into action requires clarity and coherence. When leaders use specific metrics or milestones to track progress, employees know what is expected of them and how they can deliver on those objectives.
With specifics, less is more. A meta-analysis of 83 interventions in organizations including the U.S. Air Force, high-tech manufacturing plants, and hospitals found that setting only a handful of objectives, assigning simple metrics to each goal, and providing regular feedback improved performance enough to move an average team to the 88th percentile of performance. Simplifying the details helps others think through the steps of how to achieve their goals without becoming overwhelmed.
Goals should be transparent.
While it’s understandable that certain goals–such as those related to individual improvement–must be kept private, team objectives should be aired for all to see and know. Leaders should bring greater visibility to the responsibilities of different groups within their organizations. Not only can this publicity shape a collective understanding of strategy and values, it can also help team members locate colleagues in similar situations who can provide advice on how they can do better.
It is every leader’s job to bring out the best in other people. By focusing on goals that are FAST, not just SMART, you’ll help others see their path of progress more clearly.
Originally appeared at Inc.
When was the last time your feedback felt like a partnership?
Getting others to accept feedback can prove challenging, especially when it’s critical. Negative feedback triggers a primal threat response, leading others to become defensive, angry and self-conscious. It can weaken their overall effectiveness at work. And it might even cause them to prioritize relationships with those who affirm, rather than challenge, their positive self-view.
Whether it’s provoked by a heightened state of stress or the pale of rater bias, our resistance to feedback runs deep. That aversion cuts both ways. According to a 2016 survey of more than six hundred managers, over a third (37 percent) said that they’re uncomfortable giving direct feedback about their employees’ performance if they think it will provoke a negative response, while nearly 70 percent felt uncomfortable talking to their employees in general.
While the reasons vary — a perceived lack of time, coaching expertise, or fear of ensuing drama — the outcome is almost always the same: Wary managers resort to feedback techniques like the “praise sandwich” that can end up doing more harm than good. What emerges is a tenuous feedback culture built largely upon evasion, confusion and self-delusion.
For more effective feedback, managers should build partnership through the use of simple conversation prompts. By increasing two-way conversation, you’ll create a more authentic and revealing feedback experience that fosters trust, flows with the rhythm of work, and sets the conditions for positive, lasting change.
To change the tone and trajectory of feedback, try incorporating these prompts into your performance conversations:
Ask more “hero” questions.
Start by unlocking the potential of your employees with “hero” questions that focus on their strengths and stories of success. As they reflect on these peak moments, you’ll get a better sense of how they got there — and how you can partner with them to do it again. Among my favorite hero questions:
- Tell me about a time this month you felt energized.
- What have you learned about yourself from working on this project?
- What strengths have you found most useful on this project?
- Who have you recently helped, and what difference did it make in their work and yours?
Solve problems collaboratively.
When employees hint to a challenge, pay attention to their cues. Is this person holding back? What does that individual’s body language and tone of voice convey?
By actively listening and scanning, you’ll show genuine interest and engagement, putting the other person at ease. Rather than offer your own solutions, seek ways to understand the issue from the other person’s perspective by creating meaningful dialogue. For example:
- What outcome are you trying to achieve?
- What is happening? Why do you think it’s happening?
- What have you tried so far? How have you handled similar challenges in the past?
- Have you tried to resolve this challenge? What happened as a result?
Shape the path of progress.
If performance is a journey, then it’s the manager’s job to help shape a path towards progress. Once employees suggest a way forward, managers should guide their next steps. This steers the conversation towards actionable outcomes, making feedback more concrete. Here are some effective conversation closers:
- How do you think you’ll act on this?
- What is holding you back from achieving your goals?
- How can I help you recreate the conditions of your success?
The best feedback helps others understand their strengths and provides the encouragement and guidance to build on those strengths. Turning feedback into a partnership sets the conditions for positive and lasting change. Making that small shift can produce a world of difference in your message — and just might help others see themselves in an entirely new way.
Landing a new job, especially a promotion, can be an exciting career move — but not without its share of complications. This can be particularly true for leaders whose zeal for racking up early wins can be perceived as threatening to those who don’t know them or their intentions, setting up these leaders and their teams for potential conflict and friction.
Instead of waiting for acclimation, new leaders can take control of their own image with deliberate and proactive actions that demonstrate humility and earnestness — qualities that go a long way towards forming a positive and lasting first impression.
Sharpen your listening.
While past experience can be a useful guide, it’s not always translatable across different work cultures. New leaders should resist the temptation to deploy practices of their past without taking time to asses the current landscape. Rather than make bold assumptions about what works (“At my old company, we did this”), leaders should adopt a listen-first, act-second approach built upon humbler qualities like inquiriy and reflection.
There’s even a strong business case for “softer” leadership. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that teams with humble leaders — noted for their capacity to ask questions and listen attentively — performed better and did higher-quality work than teams whose leaders exhibited less humility.
Show you’re an enthusiastic and engaged listener by immediately holding “discovery meetings” with direct reports. These one-on-one sessions should be brief and casual, focusing on questions like, “What’s worked well for our team in the past?” and “How can I best support you going forward?” Not only will you learn more about the dynamics of your new team, but you’ll likely gain their respect by honoring their preferences and past achievements.
Ask for genuine feedback.
Bringing your team inside the decision-making process is smart practice: Not only can it improve the quality of decisions, but it may also motivate others to stand behind those ideas and implement them.
At the same time, new leaders should be careful not to engage in what Stanford management professor Bob Sutton calls “sham participation” — asking for feedback about matters with pre-determined outcomes. This erodes trust and causes others to doubt your authenticity as a leader.
To collect genuine feedback, be upfront about your process. Manage expectations by making sure others understand what needs to be decided, how information will be gathered, and who will make the ultimate call. People may not like the decision that’s reached, but they’ll respect you for seeking and weighing their feedback with straightforward transparency.
Lead by serving others.
During a recent leadership retreat with a team of healthcare executives, I presented a simple thought experiment: What should employees in your hospital system think about its leaders? Their desired sentiment went something like this:
“They are people I want to work for and would even put my own job on the line for.“
You can’t earn that level of loyalty without reciprocity of trust. As I’ve said often in print and from the stage, leaders don’t build trust — they breed it. It is an intangible quality that emerges from everyday acts of service that leaders seed within their teams and cultures.
Use your leverage as a leader to serve the “whole” employee. From putting limits on off-hours communication to sourcing opportunities for job-embedded, just-in-time continuous learning, leaders can promote the well-being and growth of others by seeking small but significant ways to serve their needs in and out of the workplace. Many of these gestures don’t cost much, but their impact is priceless.
Humility, as C.S. Lewis has noted, isn’t demonstrated by thinking less of yourself but by thinking of yourself less. It’s an important reminder for leaders at all levels: Real strength comes from the way you strengthen those around you.
Unconscious bias can get in the way of effective feedback and performance reviews. Here’s how to fix that before it’s too late.
Measuring employee performance can be a daunting task, especially for managers who feel they lack the skill and time to evaluate the capabilities of others. The challenge of assessing work and delivering feedback is made harder by the subtle but significant biases we carry around in our heads. These cognitive traps can cloud our judgment and complicate decisions about pay and promotion.
While a number of my clients have taken positive steps towards increasing contact time between managers and their reports, they confide that the real challenge may be lurking deep inside the unconscious mind. Preventing these latent biases from creeping into the talent cycle starts with a clearer understanding of what these traps are and how to check them before it’s too late.
Common Cognitive Traps
When I ask managers about their experience rating others, they typically identify the following four cognitive traps that interfere with their better judgment:
- Central tendency bias: Statistically speaking, a measure of central tendency refers to a typical value of probability — how likely something is to occur over time. When it comes to measuring performance, it refers more generally to the tendency of raters to evaluate others close to the average. Whether it’s their lack of performance data or the fear of assigning a low rating, managers may choose to falsely lump people in the middle.
- Recency bias: Sometimes called the “recency effect,” recency bias occurs whenever performance is assessed on the basis of recent events, giving undue weight to “right now” behaviors. This clips the true picture of performance and tells only a small part of an employee’s story.
- Spillover bias: The opposite of recency is spillover, which unfairly assumes that a person’s past performance continues to show up in the present. This pessimistic view of others dismisses the notion of a growth mindset and chains people to a past they can’t easily overcome.
- Confirmation bias: Better known as “halo effect,” this bias results in an overly positive view of people on the basis of past experiences, personal affinities or pre-conceived beliefs. It leads to favoritism, better reviews and an overall rosier view of performance.
Bias cannot be eliminated altogether, but there are deliberate steps leaders can take to limit its effect on decision-making — primarily by elevating the voices of others. Here are three:
1. Become a “learn it all.”
Instead of presuming to know everything about another person, develop a genuine interest in understanding their unique point of view. This “learn it all” approach fosters curiosity, reveals new insights, and can even strengthen relationships.
2. Flip the conversation.
Performance reviews are notorious for turning into one-sided monologues dominated by the perceptions of managers. Try reversing the dynamic by asking employees to describe something they wish others knew about them — their work style, recent achievements, or interests outside of the office. You’d be amazed at how much you don’t know about others.
3. Invite self-critique.
If you can’t trust your own assessment, ask for someone else’s — your employee. Every few weeks, or at the end of a project, invite your team to write their own evaluation. I encourage my clients to use a simple matrix that is broken into two columns: “Do over” and “do again.” Employees find the exercise refreshing, since it gives them opportunities to reflect and reframe, and managers are surprised by the insights it provides.
Fairness and objectivity are essential elements of a robust review process. When managers pay closer attention to the voices of their employees, they’re more likely to recognize them for who they really are.
This column originally appeared at Inc.
This article originally appeared in Inc.
For decades, leaders have relied on brainstorming to solve their toughest creative challenges. But simply throwing teams together with hopes they’ll produce a breakthrough idea is counterproductive.
Not only does brainstorming often lead to conformity, but decades of research show that people tend to produce fewer ideas than they would working alone. And while certain adjustments can help, it’s time we gave brainstorming a much-needed fix.
Instead of everyone talking at the same time, try to get everyone writing at the same time–an idea generating process called “brainwriting.”
Bump Up Ideas
With brainwriting, individuals are given time to think about and propose ideas before they’re swallowed up by group discussion. Say your marketing team is trying to come up with a brand message for a new campaign. Give each person a note card or Post-It to jot down a few working concepts. Some variations of brainwriting follow a “6-3-5” rule: a team of six people must come up with three ideas in five minutes. Once the cards change hands, a similar process unfolds–but instead of coming up with new ideas, each team member proposes new angles (a process that closely resembles the “plussing” approach popularized by creatives at Pixar, who bump up story ideas with different concepts). The card-swapping exchange of ideas continues until every member of the team has a chance to review and revise all the options.
With some of my clients, I’ve tried a “skinny” brainwriting exercise in which cards or Post-Its are shared, at random, just once–but without any names or clues that give away someone’s identity. (In this version, there are only two rules: No guessing and no judgment.) After this first pass, all of the ideas are made visible to the entire group (sticking them on a physical white board or collecting them in a shared doc works well) and are evaluated collectively. Patterns and themes begin to emerge. More structured debate can suddenly unfold. Teams start thinking together–all because they had the chance to think apart.
Benefits of Brainwriting
Whatever form it takes, brainwriting supplies three critical elements that too-often go missing in traditional brainstorming sessions:
Equity: Every member of the group gets a voice, not just the loudest and most assertive individuals.
Ideation: Ideas are received and revised in real-time, accelerating the time it takes to move from divergence (a range of views) to convergence (a shared view), the power cycle of innovative thinking.
Teamwork: Rather than compete for airtime or idea superiority, team members work together to bring the idea count up, not down, and strengthen each other’s positions rather than defeat them.
Allowing people a chance to ideate without interruption promotes more ideas–and more original ones. Leigh Thompson, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, found that brainwriting groups generated 20 percent more ideas and 42 percent more original ideas as compared to traditional brainstorming groups. “When one person is talking you’re not thinking of your own ideas,” Thompson said. “Sub-consciously you’re already assimilating to my ideas.”
There are some great digital tools that lend support and structure to brainwriting, but whether it drives more creativity and collaboration among your team comes down to three caveats:
Explain the process:To avoid falling victim to “fad fever,” brainwriting needs a clear rationale. Make sure your team understands why you’re encouraging a shift from the familiar mode of brainstorming and the benefits it will bring. Clarity greases the wheels of change.
Set a clear target: Brainwriting works best when there’s a specific problem to solve. “Increase sales by 10 percent” and “Generate 10 times page visits per month” are clearer targets – and thus more solvable challenges – than “Improve employee happiness” and “Elevate customer service.”
Act on ideas: People shut off their creative thinking when they suspect their ideas fall down the rabbit hole. Don’t elicit ideas from your team unless you’re prepared to act on them. Seeking their input but failing to execute on it will deplete the creative capital of everyone around you. And in the event that one of these ideas turns out to be a winner, be sure to credit the person or team responsible for it.
Staying ahead of the curve is never easy, but brainwriting can strengthen your team’s creative dynamics by providing a time-efficient, equitable solution that lets all voices be heard and the best ideas succeed. When we work together, the results we achieve can surpass anything we might produce on our own.
This article originally appeared in Inc.
Hiring the right person for your business or team is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make. The effects on resources and morale can be significant: According to a recent survey by Robert Half, the high costs of even one bad hire include time lost to training, increased team stress, and diminished faith in the leader.
It may even cause illicit activity to spread. And while due diligence helps, interviews that rely on heavily scripted and surface-level questions often fail to predict how someone will actually behave on the job.
Here’s a simple but effective way to change that. I call it the “wrapper test.”
Before a candidate walks into the interviewing room, place a crumpled candy wrapper by the door. Then step back and watch: Does the candidate stop to pick up the wrapper or simply glide past it?
You might still hire the person who walks by the wrapper. But you should definitely hire the person who drops it into the trash.
Why? Because that one small gesture gives you three big insights into the kind of person you’ll be bringing on board:
1. Puts the team first
Most work problems result from acts of selfishness and self-absorption. That simply won’t fly in today’s hyper-connected business environment, as changes in the workforce, the workplace, and the technologies used in the world of work require teams to communicate and collaborate without fear or hesitation.
Failing to pick up the wrapper may be an early warning sign of ego-driven behavior that puts individual honor (“I’m too good for this” or “That’s not my job”) before the needs of the team or organization. But when a candidate feels compelled to pick up office trash even before getting an offer, you can be sure that person is ready to put the team first.
2. Looks out for potential hazards
Staying a beat ahead of the competition isn’t just about innovation, but observation–developing a keen awareness of potential hazards that may cause your business to stumble. Having people on your team who are naturally attuned to their surroundings will protect the group from organizational blind spots that lead to missed chances and potential threats.
With their detail-oriented thinking, these frontline “noticers” often identify ways to move a business forward. A person who notices the oddly placed candy wrapper could very well be the one who detects other irregularities, synergies, and disruptions that are hiding in plain sight. And that’s definitely someone you want on your side.
3. Cares for the business and its people
When people deeply care about the work they do, it infuses every aspect of their job experience. They form a strong personal identification with the organizations they serve–and bring the fullest version of themselves to that relationship. When Zappos screens new hires, it puts applicants through a two-stage interview process: First, hiring managers interview candidates to learn about their past work experience and relevant skills. That’s followed by a separate round of interviews to determine whether candidates are a “cultural fit” for the company’s core values.
The company is so confident that the people it hires are brand ambassadors that CEO Tony Hsieh allows reporters to approach any member of his team with on-the-record questions without getting preapproval. That might seem like a PR nightmare, but not if you believe, as Hsieh does, that the people he hires aren’t just filling jobs, but fulfilling a mission–one that is zealously built around shared beliefs and goals.
No process is fail-safe, and making a bad hire is an unfortunate but unavoidable reality of running a business. But as team dynamics, agile thinking, and company culture play bigger roles in day-to-day operations, it’s important that the people we hire not only possess required credentials and skills but the right mindsets and attitudes as well.
This article originally appeared in Inc.
Giving feedback, especially when it’s critical, is a difficult but necessary function of managing people. Managers who don’t want to come across as confrontational will often resort to a “praise sandwich,” tucking negative feedback between two compliments.
And while it remains a popular option, the praise sandwich is a stale choice. Not only do some people find this manner of feedback less reliable, they are often more likely to focus on the praise at the end of the sandwich instead of the critique in the middle — serving neither the feedback giver nor the intended recipient.
In my book The Feedback Fix, I propose a simple alternative — a feedback “WRAP.”
It stands for:
What/Where: State what has happened and where it is happening.
Reason: Describe the reason this issue requires attention.
Affect: Explore the emotions this causes with “I” statements (“When this happens, I feel…”)
Prompt: Shift from blame to contribution by asking the recipient to suggest strategies and solutions.
Instead of disguising critical feedback with empty praise, feedback WRAPs bundle specific observations with nonjudgmental emotions. They address issues with candor and coherence. Most importantly, they shift the tone and trajectory of feedback, giving the recipient more voice and choice over what happens next.
Say you’re a sales director in a midsize company. Lately, you’ve become frustrated by Mike, one of your top-performing sales reps, who has developed a habit of interrupting clients in pitch meetings and cutting them off mid-sentence. You’ve noticed that this creates an uneasy dynamic and may even be costing you prospects. You appreciate Mike’s energy but need him to exercise more restraint and better listening during meetings.
If you’re serving a praise sandwich, the feedback probably goes something like this:
“Mike, you’re one of my best sales guys, but can you do me a favor and tone it down a little when we’re pitching clients? But hey, keep bringing that energy, my friend!”
Now, if Mike is like most people, he walks away from that feedback encounter thinking that he’s a top performer (praise) and that you, as his boss, want him to maintain his current sales posture (praise). He is so attuned to these messages that he overlooks the part about showing restraint (critique). Instead of addressing the core problem, you’ve probably only reinforced it.
Now re-imagine this conversation using a WRAP approach:
What and Where: “Mike, I noticed you interrupted the client twice in this morning’s pitch. Can we talk about that real quick?”
Reason: “I’m bringing this up because it seemed to create some tension in the room. The client was trying to get a point across but couldn’t finish. Did you happen to notice that?”
Affect: “When I saw that, I felt uneasy — I kept thinking we might be hurting our chances by not letting the client be fully heard.”
Prompt: “What’s your take on the best way to go forward here?”
This is high-grade feedback. You clearly define the cause and context (interrupting the client twice during a pitch); explain your rationale (it led to tension); explore why it matters to you (could cost the team leads); and seek genuine input from the recipient (rather than imposing a solution). Not only does Mike know exactly what’s on your mind and why you care, but he’s prompted to evaluate this information for himself and generate his own call to action.
By approaching others as their partner and removing fear and uncertainty, your feedback is more likely to be positively received. And because you’re eliciting their ideas and suggestions, any go-forward solution is more likely to stick because it came from them, not you.
Talking to people about their performance is never easy, but experience has shown me that when these conversations are reframed with a WRAP approach, people feel truly served by the feedback they get — and may even start coming back for more.
This article originally appeared in Inc.
Getting others to accept our feedback, especially when it’s negative, can be challenging. And while it certainly helps to share feedback that’s timely, specific, and growth-oriented, the best way to get others to be receptive to feedback is to describe a future they can still change and control.
Too often, managers share feedback that’s rooted in the past and prescriptive in nature. If you want your message to produce a more positive and meaningful result, start by changing your feedback mindset.
In short: Become a “mirror holder,” not a “window gazer.” Knowing the difference can make all the difference.
“Window gazers” look at their surroundings and tell others what they see. Their view is one-sided and selective. When they size up others, window gazers already know what they’re looking for and where to find it. And because their field of vision is hyper-focused, they tend to lose sight of everything else within view.
Window gazers tend to give out very specific but myopic feedback about another person’s work. The message tends to be narrowly focused, subjectively framed, and limited in its perspective. It captures only part of the performance picture–the part that the window gazer managed to see.
On the other end of the feedback spectrum, you have “mirror holders.” These are the individuals who diminish their own view by enlarging the perspective of others. Mirror holders aren’t concerned with what they see–you can’t see much when you’re looking at the mirror’s opaque backside–and instead train their sights on helping others discover a better understanding of the issues staring right back at them.
Simply put: Window gazers tell others what to see. Mirror holders challenge others to see it for themselves.
When you give feedback as a mirror holder, you spend more time asking and less time asserting. Your feedback is guided by questions rather than assumptions. Rather than try to force a change, mirror holders attempt to provoke an insight, tilting the feedback dynamics from power to partnership and blame to inquiry. What might have become a fraught exchange turns into a positive exercise in relationship building.
The best feedback helps others understand their strengths and provides the encouragement and guidance to build on those strengths. Mirror holders set the conditions for positive and lasting change. Making that small adjustment in your mindset can produce a world of difference in your message–and just might help others see themselves in an entirely new way.
This article originally appeared in Inc.
For young workers, moving into a leadership role is an exciting and fulfilling step, but not without its share of complications. Whether managing distractions or delivering valuable feedback, new leaders can feel overwhelmed by the demands of their new position.
As new leaders learn to level up and begin to engage their teams, it’s important not to overlook basic principles like these:
1. When you ask for advice, mean it.
Bringing others into the decision-making process is smart practice: Not only does it improve the quality of decisions, it also motivates others to stand behind those ideas and implement them.
But when leaders ask for suggestions without showing real interest, they engage in what Stanford management professor Bob Sutton calls “sham participation”–putting out a hollow call for ideas when a plan of action has already been determined.
This kind of deception wastes people’s time and erodes their trust. Once employees realize their opinions never really counted, they are likely to lose faith in their bosses and doubt their motives for even asking in the first place–leading to feelings of disappointment, confusion, and even resentment.
To show your good intent, be upfront about the decision-making process. Manage expectations by making sure others understand what needs to be decided, how information will be collected, and who will make the ultimate call. People may not like the decision that’s reached, but they’ll respect the process behind it.
2. When you reach a decision, keep it.
Once decisions are made, it’s up to the leader to stand by them–even when they’re unpopular. The initial rollout period can be fraught with grumblings, anxiety, and setbacks, but retreating from a decision not only weakens the action–it diminishes your credibility too.
This can be especially challenging for inexperienced managers, who may feel insecure in their new roles. When faced with pushback from their team, well-meaning managers may put decisions “under review”–or in extreme cases, pull them entirely–to ease worries or win allies.
When I’m training leadership teams, it’s the managers who maintain a calm and consistent approach that get the best results. When promises are made and kept, leaders show their team they can be trusted to follow through. If new information emerges later, decisions can always be revisited–not from worry and second thoughts, but as a result of balanced leadership and good listening.
3. When you pledge action, do it.
The old adage of “say what you mean, and mean what you say” should be heeded closely when it comes time for implementation. Making a decision is not a substitute for taking action, and the sooner ideas are put into motion, the better.
When leaders hesitate, tensions mount. People may wonder about the resources that were supposedly allocated to this project. Others may grow skeptical about the viability of the plan. Suddenly, interest and momentum are replaced by worry and hand-wringing.
Besides taking swift and deliberate action, leaders should openly communicate their intentions with others. When announcing a new decision, be sure to include a timeline for implementation and stick to those dates. You can even bring greater visibility to the project by providing status updates or team-wide demonstrations of its real-life effects.
Learning how to provide support is one of the most important skills a new leader can master. Clarity, consistency, and communication are key to getting great results–not just for your team, but for yourself, too.
This article originally appeared in Inc.
Throughout his career, NBA star Steph Curry has demonstrated key lessons in leadership and mental toughness–not to mention, the power of a positive team culture. And as the NBA post-season heats up, Curry is taking aim at the value of a growth mindset.
“Everything that I do great right now,” Curry recently told the Wall Street Journal. “I want to do even better.”
That’s a neat summary of a growth mindset, the belief that basic qualities can be cultivated and improved through ongoing effort. As research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has shown, people can change and improve through application and experience. Success comes as a result of effort, learning, and persistence–not just inborn talent, intelligence or strength.
Believing that your qualities are carved in stone–a fixed mindset–discourages risk-taking and revision. People with a fixed mindset avoid challenging situations that might lead to failure because success depends upon protecting and promoting their set of fixed qualities and concealing their deficiencies.
Growth-mindset individuals like Curry ferociously attack their weaknesses. The Golden State Warriors guard spent the off-season training three hours a day and six days a week, combining virtual-reality workouts with relentless shooting exercises to strengthen his ability to better see the court and increase his field-goal percentage.
According to his trainer, Curry didn’t leave practice sessions until he drained between 600 and 700 shots. “I might be delusional,” Curry said. “But I feel like I can get better at putting the ball in the basket.”
Whether your target is a higher sales volume, diversified revenue stream, or faster production cycle, having a growth mindset is critical to business success. Here’s what it looks like off the court and in your office.
Growing and Keeping Talent
If you adopt a fixed view of talent, you’ll inevitably treat each employee’s skills as fixed assets. That view of human capital will create the mistaken belief that people’s capabilities are static rather than fluid. Instead of grooming the talent they already have, managers may vainly search for better options–and risk alienating and even losing their rising stars in the process.
I once coached the owner of a midsize electronics company about the power of screening for talent. He felt that he could size up new hires on the spot based on gut instinct, but ended up passing on hidden gems because his “gut” tended to veer towards his fixed views of candidates’ surface qualities.
Applying a growth mindset to who people are and how they work can lift the performance of everyone on the team. By reinforcing the idea that strengths can be refined and stretched, you can set a high bar for excellence that is measured by continuous effort.
Building Better Relationships
A fixed mindset fosters a zero-sum view of the world: If you win, I lose. This threat triggers our primordial instinct to protect power and eliminate threats–hardly the kind of attitude that promotes harmony in the workplace.
Recently, I conducted a workshop for a large digital marketing firm about ways to boost their creative capacity. During pitch sessions, the creative director had a habit of talking at length, leaving little room for the rest of his team to contribute ideas of their own. Once he realized the power of tapping the team’s creative genius, the creative process spiked–the team generated more ideas than before, and the creative director was viewed more favorably by his team.
A growth mindset redefines the possibilities of partnership: By working together, we can create more value than if we work individually. That process of creating shared value deepens trust, increases collaboration, and strengthens relationships–a virtuous cycle that leads to healthier workplace dynamics and outcomes.
Reducing Performance Bias
Even well-intentioned managers can fall victim to their own cognitive traps, like seeking information that confirms their preexisting beliefs–confirmation bias–or placing too much stock in the superiority of their own views, known as self-confidence bias. In my book The Feedback Fix, I showed the debilitating effects of these assumptions on everyday conversations. A fixed mindset allows those cognitive biases to creep, since it does little to offset–and may even reinforce–our natural blinders.
A growth mindset can encourage you to take a closer look at your intuitions. Believing that others have yet to reveal their best work flips the performance script: Rather than assail others for what they fail to produce, you can seek ways to support the emergent growth of everyone on your team. That optimism spreads quickly throughout the group, and prompts employees to adopt a growth mindset as well.
You don’t need the preternatural talents of a Steph Curry to achieve a growth mindset–just a commitment towards seeing others not just for who they are, but who they are becoming.