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Contributorship™ Skill: Embracing a Growth Mindset – Learn Faster by Failing Faster

Failure. It’s a daunting word that signifies we didn’t achieve our goal.

Traditionally, failure in the workplace has carried severe consequences, from demotions to terminations, because it disappoints important stakeholders who expected success. But are failures always bad? Not necessarily, young Jedi.

A person with a Fixed Mindset views failure as something to fear and avoid at all costs, which might provide safety but rarely fosters the growth needed for an organization to stay competitive. Growth requires taking risks and learning from unexpected outcomes—those so-called failures. Remember how many times Edison failed before inventing the light bulb? These failures are stepping stones to success.

Forward-thinking individuals should adopt a growth mindset strategy. Popularized by psychologist Carol Dweck, this concept shows that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication, hard work, and learning from failure and feedback. People with a growth mindset see challenges and failures as opportunities to grow rather than as limitations.

Key Characteristics of a Growth Mindset:

  • Embracing Challenges: Viewing challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Persistence: Continuing effort despite setbacks, believing it will lead to improvement.
  • Effort: Valuing effort as essential for success and improvement.
  • Learning from Criticism: Seeing constructive feedback as valuable for growth, not as personal attacks.
  • Inspiration from Others: Using others’ success as motivation to improve oneself.
  • Resilience: Bouncing back from failures with a determination to keep trying and learning.

A growth mindset fosters a love for learning and resilience essential for great accomplishments. Adopting this mindset is simple but challenging. Here are some steps to get started:

Steps to Adopt a Growth Mindset:

  1. Examine Your Fears: Identify the source of your fears. Are you worried about others’ opinions? Control your fears to take the first step.
  2. Start Small: Choose a task you believe could be done more efficiently with minimal impact on others. Manage your emotions through the process. Even if challenged, focus on what you learned from the experience.
  3. Fail Fast: Quickly learn what works and what doesn’t, building emotional tolerance for feedback.
  4. Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable: Staying in your comfort zone doesn’t lead to growth. Take calculated risks to gain more knowledge and skills.
  5. Celebrate Effort and Learnings: View your career as a journey. Recognize your hard work and the lessons learned along the way, focusing on growth rather than just achievements.

A Personal Story

As a Senior Technical Director, I was responsible for a mission-critical system where success was defined by uptime. We faced minor latency issues that eluded duplication in our lab. One day, I directed my team to push the system to crash, hoping to identify the root cause. This led to a 14-minute outage for 350,000 users but allowed us to pinpoint and resolve the issues. Although we lost the coveted five 9s standard, the experience led to long-term improvements in our platform.

Despite concerns and advice against it, I’d do it again. A fixed mindset might have prevented us from resolving the latency issue, which, though minor, affected our department’s reputation. This failure led to a better system and advancement.

A growth mindset is crucial for Contributorship™, where you take responsibility for creating value for yourself, your organization, and its stakeholders. The skills and attributes of Contributorship™ are learnable. If you’re interested in learning more, connect with me on LinkedIn and follow The Steele Method LinkedIn business page.

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