Compelling research suggests that the growth mindset can be developed in employees. However, leaders must deliberately cultivate this attitude.
- Instead of providing feedback during relatively rare quarterly or annual performance reviews, offer pulses of feedback at more frequent intervals.
- Leaders can also change how they use evaluations; they can use them as tools to catalyze development, instead of just as ways to decide promotions and firings.
- Leaders can weave feedback into the everyday work experience. Tell people what they’re doing right. Give them tools to improve.
- They should also encourage a healthy back and forth conversation. Employees should feel free to actively solicit feedback from their supervisors, peers and others.
Timely, Accurate Input
In addition to establishing a sensitive culture, leaders must create and maintain intelligent mechanisms to collect feedback. They need all stakeholders’ active participation in the process.
Businesses must make challenging decisions based on incomplete information all the time. The views of leaders are formed as much by information they lack as by knowledge they possess.
To that end, supervisors need to keep an ear to the ground and curate feedback not just from employees but also from other supervisors, vendors and customers. The goal isn’t to identify a particular fly in the ointment. Rather, it’s to become aware of patterns in the organization that can then be fixed or improved in a strategic way.
The Value of Seeing the Bigger Picture
Crowd-sourced feedback, often called 360° feedback, gives leaders an opportunity to put the company’s workflow in context. Perhaps an employee’s productivity declined, but why? Feedback from a vendor might explain that he or she took time away from pressing projects to help the vendor solve a nagging logistical problem. In other words, partial feedback might suggest that the employee slacked. However, full-picture feedback shows he or she actually went the extra mile for the company.
360° feedback also reveals subtleties about what goes on in an organization that those in the C-Suite may not realize. Perhaps, for instance, a manager puts on a good show for executives but secretly mistreats subordinates.
Properly Designed Feedback Creates a Culture of Transparency
In a transparent culture of learning, feedback ideally leads to growth. Instead of provoking anxiety, the process of gathering data and information should be celebrated. Feedback deployed smartly leads to more engaged teams, happier clients and vendors and improvement over time.
Leaders cannot afford to be ignorant of the truth, even if that truth is painful. By contrast, they need to go out of their way to become conscious of their own faults and weaknesses—and to see the most tender, vulnerable parts of their organizations for what they are. Great leaders force themselves to be open-eyed even when they have no desire to face hard truths because of anger, fear, anxiety, shame or ego.
Relatedly, feedback processes need to be handled by those who are highly aware of how to deal with such — in other words, how to collect key data and debrief others about it. (This is true whether the process is handled by an internal manager or an external practitioner to the organization.)
Finally, at the risk of belaboring the point, this approach should be growth-mindset-oriented: the purpose is to build and develop people. If employees sense an ulterior motive, they will turn against the process.
In our years as an Executive Coaching practice, we’ve worked with hundreds of high-level leaders in many organizations. Here’s what we have observed. Those who succeed do not let the wool get pulled over their eyes. Leaders live in a fishbowl. They cannot hide how they show up to others. Leaders must model a growth mindset and set the pace for the company. A reminder, everything cascades down from the top.