We all have heard that the environment around us is changing rapidly every day. Another mantra that overwhelms us is that this change can be done with people who are flexible to the changes, with adaptive thinking and ready to constantly learn new things. These people are often called people with a growth mindset, talents, future leaders, etc. There is so much written about them. We hear about people with a growth mindset in leaders’ speeches, they are in the lights when we talk about change, they are those who we invest in and present like puppets to the C level leadership teams. These people are idea generators, they are energy and (in most cases) value-driven, generate great ideas, plan how to change the existing reality and how their action will make an impact. Depending on the level of seniority in life, the growth mindset group representatives present ideas or execute actions that shake the status quo.
But while we need change, we also need stability in our work. After something good is done, it must be sustained in life. To see the benefit of a great idea implemented we need time. And the growth mindset people are not good at sustaining things in time. According to an American Psychology Association research back in 2018 – 58% of people with a growth mindset achieve something and create or give something new to their companies because this new thing will open the doors to them to continuously generate ideas for change. The growth mindset people are described in this research as a group of professionals driven by energy to win. But after winning the fight for the change they often lose interest in the idea and want to move to the next big thing. The same research points to another group of people, whose contribution is crucial to sustaining changes in time and build a basis for further improvement on them. This group of people represents the fixed mindset employees. According to an Inc. published article, back in 2019, the fixed mindset people are the ingredient that makes changes sustainable in time. They don’t create amazing new things, don’t have the passion to change the status quo. Still, this group of people is there to sustain the changes in time and ensure that created systems will work as per established, refurbished or reinvented standards.
Most leaders feel comfortable working with people with a Growth mindset, and these same leaders feel upset when they have to work with people with a fixed mindset. For the leaders, the fixed mindset people look slow, resisting to change, not flexible or even stubborn, etc. But the fixed mindset people have a strong impact on how the company works and the right approach toward them can deliver great results toward their work and contribution. I have worked with people from both groups and reinvented the value each of the groups of people can add to the business. If you have to work with people with a fixed mindset here are some tips that helped me, and, I think, can help you to bring out the best from the fixed mindset people.
People with a fixed mindset, need strict rules. They are not that group of people who you can trust to be creative, go out of the box and do things differently. To get the best out from them you need to set strict and clear rules and steps in the process. These people are hardly flexible and when they show some flexibility it looks like if they are unhappy and do things differently with no passion.
The fixed mindset people are detail-oriented. They need a lot of details to finish the work that was assigned to them. If you give them a task you need to explain in detail what you need, what purpose will that product, information, etc. serve on and by what deadline. After doing that you can stay calm and relax because you will get exactly what you have described – nothing more or less, but exactly what your description has informed them to do.
Ask them for an explanation of what they do (logic for actions)
In some cases, people with a fixed mindset have built during the time their own logic how the things will work best for them and follow it, without giving any change to new things to enter their lives. Their logic may have been successful back in time and they still use it, without bothering themselves that things have changed and the environment is not the same as before. When you start working with someone whose mindset is fixed and resistant to changes, you may need to focus attention on understanding the logic they use when working on task and even projects Their logic may seem inappropriate for you, but you have to work with them, so you need to put some effort to understand the logic in their actions
Make them feel comfortable not changing the status quo
I have made the same mistake twice in my life. I am a change driven person. If I don’t see much value in anything I do my best to change it. But for people with a fixed mindset, it is hard to make that step. When they meet someone who is constantly changing the environment that makes them feel uncomfortable and nervous. So, the best you can do, instead of starting to try changing the environment and their attitudes is to discuss with them what they do and how they do it. If you want to change something give them the opportunity to think about how an established and working for them model can be changed, instead of introducing your vision as the only possible to be implemented.
Explain all changes
In a constantly moving world, we need change. And if your team is only full of people with a growth mindset you won’t have any difficulties to implement whatever change you think is needed. But with people with a fixed mindset, you will need to put more effort into the game. To change their mindset and make them think positively think about change, you will need to have strong evidence that this change will be also helpful for them. Here you will have to think about good examples for similar to the person with a fixed mindset people who have made an impact and have changed the established way of working in a positive way. The fixed mindset people are not impossible to change, but numbers and examples from others are crucial if you want them to start working in a different way. And another thing you will need to do here is to write a plan for change together with the person with a fixed mindset. If these people are not part of the plan creation, you will lose their hearts and minds for the plan implementation.
Follow up with them on progress
What we can do with people with a growth mindset is to give them the task and let them do their best to fulfill it. that model does not work with the people with a fixed mindset. When setting a new way of working or approach something different than the reality they have built for them, you will need to be there and help them with every step. It is not personal, and they don’t plan to waste your time. They are just not sure if new things are really good. The role of the leader in such a situation has to be supporting the change, by setting a follow-up feedback meeting plan and give the positives on what was changed. But the thin line here is to not go on the dark side and start accusing. Remember to be positive and acknowledge positive changes and move toward the negatives with questions and suggestions for improvements.
Ask for feedback on your great ideas (reality check)
Imagine you are in the middle of the plan for change and a great idea has flashed you. If you work with someone with a growth mindset, mentioning the idea will be enough to activate their interest and flame the spark. But the person with a fixed mindset is different. You will have to ask this person if the idea sounds good for them and do they have any doubts about implementing it. The careful conversation with the fixed mindset person can help your idea to rise to anew level. The one thing that is a strong characteristic of the fixed mindset person is that this person is a good barometer when you try to decide how your idea will really work. Some of the insights and positions you may hear from fixed mindset people are based on experience and history and can save you a lot of effort and make your idea stronger and more impactful in a shorter period of time. The other side here is the personal impact. Taking into consideration the position of the fixed mindset person and implementing it while planning to implement your idea makes them feel valued and appreciated and of course more engaged to the idea implementation.
Make their contribution visible and admirable
If you have people with a growth mindset around you know that they need exposure on everything they do. The fixed mindset people are not different. Although it looks like they don’t like to be on the scene and in the lights, these people need to see appreciation for the efforts they put in practice to deliver results. What you can do, to help them shine is present their roles in tasks and projects in front of others, by pointing on how they have contributed and to what this has led at the end. The fixed mindset people feel grateful when they see that the work they have done is presented and appreciated by others. They don’t necessarily need to see a presentation of their personality but feel touched when they see that their work has been presented in front of others and their role has been pointed with all its strengths.
We often can’t choose people in life we have to work with. To create a balance between ideas generation and implementation we need people from both groups – with a fixed and growth mindset. It is easier for us, If we work in a fast-paced and innovative environment, to establish a relationship with the growth mindset people. They give us what we need to see – energy, passion, flexibility. But if we want to be successful we need to help also the other group of people – the ones with a fixed mindset to contribute successfully to the fulfillment of our goals. Working closely with that second group of people actively can only upgrade our results and help us deal with all the challenges toward our path to success positively.