Unleashing Your Potential, Pt. 1: The Power of Individual Mindsets

We hear two common reflections from those taking part in our programmes.
The first comes at the end of the classroom-based Module One. At this point, participants have been exposed to many new ideas about globalisation, the role of business, and the challenges of the 21st Century. They are also starting to grapple with what awaits them: an intense period of site visits, stakeholder meetings, and project work as they develop a set of recommendations for our project partner.
At this point, participants are optimistic, but cautious: they’re excited to head into the field, but they admit some concern about whether they’d be successful. A common admission: “I’m concerned about whether we’d be able to produce something good in the time we’re given.”
The second comes at the end of Module Two, after collectively producing a report and delivering the highlights to a large crowd of businesspeople, government officials and stakeholders. They are typically exhausted after many late nights in a row.
But many with a smile will say “I can’t believe we were able to do so much in so little time. How do you guys do it?”
The idea of a “growth mindset” was proposed by psychologist Carol Dweck, noting that one of the important variables in learning outcomes was whether subjects believed that intelligence was fixed or variable.
Broadly speaking, a “fixed mindset” is one that sees potential as fixed: you have a certain amount you can achieve. This cannot be changed.
In contrast, a “growth mindset” is one that sees potential as something that can be expanded: that what people can achieve can grow under the right conditions (or, alternately, would be reduced in poor conditions).
We developed our interpretation of this, the GIFT Growth Mindset from our observations of hundreds of participants on dozens of projects. We’ve seen the qualities that, in the right environment, allows an individual to achieve much more than they might expect.
The GIFT Growth Mindset contains five elements:
  • Purpose: the inner belief in an idea, a cause, or an objective that provides the motivation or reason why someone does what they do, both inside and outside of the workplace.
  • Curiosity: the drive to seek new answers to a question and new solutions to a problem.
  • Boldness: the courage and willingness to propose and defend one’s ideas and beliefs in a determined, but polite and constructive way.
  • Energy: an attitude that impacts and inspires others, and gives them the stamina needed to achieve their goals.
  • Self-Belief: the confidence that a person can do more.
Someone that has these qualities is perfectly positioned to "unleash their potential": finding that they can continually increase what they can do and the challenges they can overcome. For example, someone with energy would:
  • Be a source of positivity, inspiration and energy for others through their words and actions
  • Take care of the physical and mental health of themselves and their teams.
  • Manage their body-language and facial expressions to keep sprits high.
Continuing with the example of energy, how might an individual seek to improve their energy levels? It might include things like getting enough sleep, and having proper work-life balance. It may include short breaks of positivity with other members of the team. It may require some consciousness of body-language and astute management of facial expressions to encourage positivity amongst the office.
These qualities need to be based upon a strong foundation of Knowledge, Communication and Empathy. Curiosity without Knowledge, Boldness without Communication and Energy without Empathy won’t serve to expand your potential, and may in fact be counter-productive. Without a good foundation in KCE, efforts to unleash potential will just lead to stress, anxiety and resentment.
For example, one can see how efforts to force positivity in an office without a proper understanding of why a team may be lacking in energy would instead create the opposite result, as staff members resent being forced to act positive.
This observation brings us to office culture, and the relationship between individual mindsets and external environment, which can bring about a positive feedback loop in an organisation. Those with the right individual mindset can institutionalise these qualities in the ways an office behaves and interacts. This culture then encourages the qualities of a growth mindset in other members of the team. In the right conditions, this allows a whole office, not just one individual, to unleash their potential.
Look forward to our next blog post on "Unleashing Your Potential", where we'll discuss some of the ways office culture and individual mindsets can have both positive and negative interactions.