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Managers with a Growth Mindset are Better Coaches

Kristen Harcourt Feb 23, 2016 9:46:23 AM

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Have you ever wondered why some managers are better coaches than others? It might not have anything to do with their skills or training. Research suggests that they might not believe people can grow and change – themselves included – and don’t see the point in coaching.

How do you tell the difference and what do you do about it?

To understand how this works, you first have to understand something called the Growth Mindset. This comes from Professor Carol Dweck’s findings on people’s approach to learning and intelligence. Dweck found that a person either has a fixed mindset or a growth mindset when approaching learning.

Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is a fixed trait that can’t be changed. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them, and believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.

Those with growth mindsets believe intelligence can grow through a process of development and hard work.

In an experiment involving seventh grade students, Dweck randomly assigned each student to one of two eight-week workshops. The control group was taught study skills while the second group was provided with study skills along with an education of how the brain learns. After the workshop, students from the second workshop had a noticeable improvement in their grades and study habits over the control group. Dweck attributes this to the students being able to picture how their brains are processing information, thus developing a growth mindset and opening themselves up to the opportunity to grow. Here’s a video of Dweck talking about the Growth Mindset.

Growth Mindset in the Workplace

What does this have to do with coaching? If you’re someone who doesn’t believe intelligence can be improved, you likely won’t take the learning process seriously. Researchers Jeffery Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, in their book Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense, assert that people who see intelligence as fixed tend to see performance as a measure of their abilities, whereas people with a growth mindset see poor performance as an opportunity to apply more effort or learning to that area.

Managers with this fixed mindset are less likely to try and help their employees through coaching—no matter what they may be asked to do.

In a similar experiment to the one conducted on the seventh graders, researchers found that managers with a fixed mindset who attended workshops illustrating how people can grow and change were more willing to coach, and the quality of their coaching improved. So, it appears that coaching can be encouraged if you first convince managers it has the potential to make a difference.

How This Can Help You

With your knowledge of Dweck’s growth mindset, you can approach managers at your workplace in different ways to maximize the likelihood that they’ll be willing and effective coaches for their team. What can you do?

One-on-One Meeting: By discussing how managers at your workplace view learning and intelligence you’ll be able to gauge their mindset.

Invest in Development: Whether you have fixed or growth minded leaders, investing in efforts that reinforce how performance and intelligence grow through learning and development will make them more willing to coach and to invest time in their own self-development.

Behavioral Assessment: Our clients use our employee assessments and McQuaig Self-Development report to better understand the management and learning styles of the managers and employees. This information will help each person better understand how to interact with the other, and provide a tangible action plan to develop the behaviors that will set them up for success.

What do you think of the concept of a growth versus fixed mindset? Can you see it in your managers?

Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Xavier Vergés

Coaching Cheat Sheet

Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee retention, Coaching and Development

Kristen Harcourt

Written by Kristen Harcourt

Kristen Harcourt is a highly trusted, creative and collaborative advisor who is passionate about people. She really enjoys helping companies make the right people decisions to achieve long term productivity.