The recent headlines about Bill and Melinda Gates filing for divorce have sent shockwaves through the philanthropic world. They announced their separation with a joint statement shared on social media last Monday:
“ After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage. Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives," they said, referring to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
According to a recent New York Times article, the pandemic lockdown was a big adjustment for Bill and Melinda, who had spent the past three decades travelling around the world. "Working from home, that was a piece that I think we hadn't really individually prepared for quite as much," Melinda told them in October 2020.
The Times piece also noted that Bill and Melinda had been growing apart for several years now, partially due to Melinda's struggles with being in Bill's shadow. "I've been trying to find my voice as I've been speaking next to Bill, and that can make it hard to be heard," she wrote in her 2019 book ‘The Moment of Lift’.
When you hear the names Bill and Melinda Gates, which words immediately come to mind? For me, it’s Microsoft, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, billionaires, innovative, influential, to name but a few.
Gates saw his first business, a computerised machine company, fail miserably. Yet he used what he learned from that mistake to eventually co-found Microsoft, which is now valued at $507.5 billion. So when he and Melinda announced "we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple", it seemed like a clear demonstration of the growth mindset already shown in previous ventures.
Whilst separation is hard, acknowledging the need to follow separate paths in order to keep growing, is cognizant and mature.
So, what do we mean when we talk about a growth mindset? A growth mindset is a belief that everyone’s talent can be developed and expanded. However, we can’t continue to talk about this subject without mentioning Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, author of ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success ’, who coined the terms growth mindset and fixed mindset to define people’s beliefs in their talents and abilities.
Dweck explains, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work, brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” She then explains that “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them.”
During the last year, as the job market has evolved and we’ve adapted to new ways of working from home, the idea of adopting a growth mindset has come into a clearer focus. It is a strategy that will help us not just now, but when things get back to normal.
Not sure how to develop a growth mindset? Well interestingly, there has been a lot of investment in this subject area.
Barclays Life Skills offer a free Mental fitness course called ‘Building a resilient mindset- Workplace training for individuals’. It helps any employee identify and challenge their empowering and limiting beliefs and build a healthy mindset.
According to Barclays Life Skills, there are several ways you can modify and strengthen your mindset: Learning to live with discomfort in the workplace is their first suggestion. Building a growth mindset requires you to force your comfort zone and experience a certain amount of risk. Crucially, this means you’ll need to prepare for some failure.
Setting yourself a goal is another suggestion: “ A ‘growth goal’ is very different from a short-term, performance-related goal such as a sales target or profit margin. Instead, this type of goal targets your longer-term personal development such as learning a new work skill or addressing a weakness – improving your ability to present to a public audience, for example.
They end by saying “ Talk to your manager about ways you can make a growth goal part of your annual performance review, and look to agree on the kinds of improvements you need”.
According to Axa Health, as an SME owner, your mindset and the mindset of your team can have a big impact on the business. Developing a growth mindset within the business means that a higher proportion of the team feel engaged with the company and motivated by the work that they do. This, in turn, leads to a higher level of productivity within the business.
Regular feedback is a valuable way to support employees in developing their skills and recognising their own potential. It helps to ensure employees get the training and support to future-proof their careers and face professional challenges.
Managers and leaders with a growth mindset usually give employees opportunity and time to grow. They focus on effort and praise employees for it. They often act as mentors and give employees opportunities to develop and train.
In order to cultivate a growth mindset in your workplace HR has to lead the way. The first step toward making progress is acknowledging that there’s a gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
Job Rapido says “ The selection of good leadership is crucial. As an HR executive, you have to actively pick leaders who demonstrate a growth mindset. Evaluate how your managers perceive and solve challenges, whether they take a “Band-Aid approach” to decision-making or look for long-term solutions, whether they manage to view failures as opportunities for a positive change”.
“Once you embrace unpleasant news not as a negative but as evidence of a need for change, you aren’t defeated by it,” Gates writes in his book “Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy.”
When you experience failure, it is natural to want to shy away and admit defeat. Rejection is inevitable, but your mindset and how you speak to yourself ultimately determines the outcome. As in Bill and Melinda’s situation, it is about knowing when to make the necessary changes to evolve and using a growth mindset to do so.