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Nurturing a growth mindset during a crisis


Research shows that a crisis can help lift the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” perspective that prevents many organisations from change and creates new opportunities for people to voice their ideas on how to do things better. Disruptive and unexpected experiences are often opportunities for growth and this mindset can serve leaders and teams well during the current crisis. However, learning a new practice is challenging and the lack of immediate, measurable progress can be discouraging.


Solutions to new challenges usually take time to put into practice. Leaders should therefore try and focus on the effort their team is making and the valuable insights they are learning, rather than the lack of immediate results. For example, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft is a great advocate of teaching people the value of a “learn it all” culture, rather than a “know it all” culture.


Modelling the growth mindset


Both, what leaders say and how they act send critical messages to others. Leaders have to be flexible in much more uncomfortable ways than they ever had to be in the past. To present what a growth mindset looks like in action, leaders should share not just their final plan, but also the setbacks along the way. Keeping communications open across the organisation is vital and getting things out on the table can help to address more issues.


Leaders need to understand the thinking of their employees and plan accordingly. You cannot over-communicate in a crisis, but the communication has to be effective not only in volume, but also in honesty and willingness to lay out both the good and the bad. Simple actions like starting the meeting with the leader communicating both what they know and don’t know, and inviting their teams not only to share their updates, but also questions and concerns, is a great opportunity for involving others in implementing immediate course corrections. A crisis can produce great leaders, those whose words and actions comfort in the present, restore confidence in the future and who can turn a difficult situation into a catalyst for positive change.

Opportunities in remote working

Working remotely is changing the ways we see our colleagues. Even with the social distancing measures and digital communication replacing face to face interactions, people became more authentic. We’ve seen each other’s houses and children on video calls, with people less worried about what they look like. Studies suggest that being less worried about social evaluation and embarrassment stimulates experimentation and creativity, both of which are key to growth. The shift to remote work has also been a great opportunity to reset expectations around giving and receiving constructive feedback. By asking questions like “What would you change if you were in my role?” leaders can model openness to feedback, which in return will make it easier for others to accept feedback themselves.


The right mindset can help teams to better coordinate and innovate. There is a lot of change on the other side of this crisis. Whilst no one knows exactly what it will be and how fast economies will recover, leaders still need to plan ahead for that period. At Acumen we have over 21 years of experience in designing and delivering leadership development programmes that give leaders at all levels the practical tools to help solve real life challenges. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at simon@askacumen.com.

 

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