Defining & Building Growth Mindsets on Teams


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Straight up, people with growth mindsets are good for business and extremely valuable on teams. It’s important for leaders and companies to be having conversations around raising awareness and developing growth mindsets in their people.

What is a growth mindset? Short answer: grit and resilience. 

Some examples of this in action are that people with growth mindsets are generally more optimistic and proactive in the face of challenges, and believe that things will work out. They see obstacles as something to overcome, not barriers that will keep them from succeeding. They’re not shy to admit their faults and imperfections while also being open to feedback and willing to learn and improve. They see change as growth and opportunity rather than the threat of loss. They’re also more willing to take risks and they bounce back quickly from failures.

People with growth mindsets see themselves as a work in progress as opposed to a finished product.

People with growth mindsets see themselves as a work in progress as opposed to a finished product. These traits allow them the mental capacity to stretch and grow and develop.

The flip side of this coin is a fixed mindset. Which looks just like the opposite; discouraged by obstacles, see feedback as criticism and damning, resist change, less willing to participate or take risks, view failures as permanent.

A great real life example of this is someone saying “I don’t want to play chess, I suck at chess.” A person with a growth mindset knows that the only way to stop sucking at chess is to continue to play and suck and learn, until you learn enough that you no longer suck. Growth mindset says “Yes, it’s possible.” Fixed mindset says “It’s not worth trying.”

Vulnerability is key

A growth mindset is deeply rooted in the ability to be vulnerable, which is closely tied to emotional intelligence, and not something we’re inherently taught as children or trained in. Vulnerability requires us to say, “This is new for me,” or “I don’t know how,” in the pursuit of becoming better.

People with a fixed mindset have a difficult time improving at anything they aren’t naturally gifted at. The reason: they’re afraid to risk looking bad in the process. It denotes insecurity and a lack of courage.

Vulnerability is not weakness, it demands courage. It’s a sign of strength.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.
- Brene Brown

More than likely the ability to play chess has zero impact on your company’s bottom line or team’s ability to perform. However, your people being open to feedback, resourceful in the face of challenges, optimistic, accepting of change, and resilient is a business case that makes itself.

So how do you build growth mindsets on your team?

This is no small task, but it’s completely possible. Awareness and understanding are great places to start. Those can be gained through conversations and sharing resources like this blog, or any books or videos that help define and unpack the topic, and create common language.

In addition, the best way to actually build it is to identify the behaviors of people with growth mindsets, and then focus on developing specific skills around those behaviors. If you can improve skills and attitudes around growth mindset topics then you’re adding one puzzle piece at a time towards completing the whole picture. For any topic you want to address, there are countless books, resources, blogs, videos, (you name it) on the subject to dive into out there.

For example: Feedback
If it’s seen on your team as criticism, a threat, or a personal attack, and feared in general, there’s some work to be done to here to build that mindset and capacity.

The process of giving and receiving feedback effectively is a technical skill that leaders and team members can learn. If you increase your ability to do it well, and establish common language and shift attitudes around feedback, then you’ve created some growth mindset.

Here are four of our blogs about feedback that provide practical skills as well as address a growth mindset approach for teams:

Rinse and repeat this same process with any other areas affected by growth mindset that you notice your team or any individuals struggle with; reaction to change, facing challenges and obstacles, taking risks, innovation, setback and failures, learning new skills, participation and vulnerability, etc.

Adopting the belief that you are a work in progress and that you’ll get there will not only make you a better employee and leader, but a better coworker, friend, partner, and human in general. It’s ok if you suck at chess, the only way anyone becomes a Grandmaster is with a growth mindset. It makes anything possible. #yourmove

This content was created by keynote speaker Galen Emanuele for the #shiftyestribe. Free leadership and team culture content centered on a new focus every month. Subscribe to the Shift Yes Tribe at