Is Your Mind(set) Open to Feedback?

We are often contacted by executives interested in getting a potential leader some coaching. In most instances the future leader sees the coaching relationship their organization is offering as an investment in their future – a chance to receive feedback and learn. But, on occasion, a leader may push back and approach the coaching relationship as if it calls in to question their competence. Clearly these are two distinct perceptions of coaching and its purpose.

While there certainly can be varied reasons for the reactions to coaching and feedback, I do think Carol Dweck’s Mindset framework (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success) can be a good starting point. Dr. Dweck’s research has identified two distinct mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

Those individuals with a fixed mindset believe you are born with a certain amount of inherent talents, abilities, and intelligence – you either have them or you don’t. This leads to a need to constantly prove your abilities and talents, to reinforce your superiority. Those individuals with a growth mindset believe your talents and abilities can be improved through your efforts – everyone can change and grow through practice and experience.

Returning to reactions to coaching as an example, individuals with a fixed mindset may approach feedback and coaching as an attack on their talents and abilities. They may receive feedback but quickly dismiss it to keep their fixed impression of themselves intact. They may focus their attention on placing blame or questioning the sources of the feedback. Those with the growth mindset will approach feedback and coaching as a source of learning and a chance to develop new abilities through effort. These individuals will embrace their weaknesses and look at alternative ways to improve, since they are not worried about measuring or protecting their fixed abilities.

The good news from Dr. Dweck’s research is that individuals can change their mindset from fixed to growth at any stage of life and the vehicle to make the change is language. By framing challenges as obstacles to be overcome through practice and learning and appropriately recognizing an individual’s efforts, we can all help others achieve results.

Related Articles: Coaching — One Approach to Leadership Development; The Coaching Partnership;Measuring Success

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