Throughout his career, NBA star Steph Curry has demonstrated key lessons in leadership and mental toughness--not to mention, the power of a positive team culture. And as a new NBA season gets ready to tip off tomorrow, Curry is taking aim at the value of a growth mindset.

"Everything that I do great right now," Curry recently told the Wall Street Journal. "I want to do even better."

That's a neat summary of a growth mindset, the belief that basic qualities can be cultivated and improved through ongoing effort. As research by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has shown, people can change and improve through application and experience. Success comes as a result of effort, learning, and persistence--not just inborn talent, intelligence or strength.

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone--a fixed mindset--discourages risk-taking and revision. People with a fixed mindset avoid challenging situations that might lead to failure because success depends upon protecting and promoting their set of fixed qualities and concealing their deficiencies.

Growth-mindset individuals like Curry ferociously attack their weaknesses. The Golden State Warriors guard spent the off-season training three hours a day and six days a week, combining virtual-reality workouts with relentless shooting exercises to strengthen his ability to better see the court and increase his field-goal percentage.

According to his trainer, Curry didn't leave practice sessions until he drained between 600 and 700 shots. "I might be delusional," Curry said. "But I feel like I can get better at putting the ball in the basket."

Whether your target is a higher sales volume, diversified revenue stream, or faster production cycle, having a growth mindset is critical to business success. Here's what it looks like off the court and in your office.

Growing and Keeping Talent

If you adopt a fixed view of talent, you'll inevitably treat each employee's skills as fixed assets. That view of human capital will create the mistaken belief that people's capabilities are static rather than fluid. Instead of grooming the talent they already have, managers may vainly search for better options--and risk alienating and even losing their rising stars in the process.

I once coached the owner of a midsize electronics company about the power of screening for talent. He felt that he could size up new hires on the spot based on gut instinct, but ended up passing on hidden gems because his "gut" tended to veer towards his fixed views of candidates' surface qualities. 

Applying a growth mindset to who people are and how they work can lift the performance of everyone on the team. By reinforcing the idea that strengths can be refined and stretched, you can set a high bar for excellence that is measured by continuous effort.

Building Better Relationships

A fixed mindset fosters a zero-sum view of the world: If you win, I lose. This threat triggers our primordial instinct to protect power and eliminate threats--hardly the kind of attitude that promotes harmony in the workplace.

Recently, I conducted a workshop for a large digital marketing firm about ways to boost their creative capacity. During pitch sessions, the creative director had a habit of talking at length, leaving little room for the rest of his team to contribute ideas of their own. Once he realized the power of tapping the team's creative genius, the creative process spiked--the team generated more ideas than before, and the creative director was viewed more favorably by his team.

A growth mindset redefines the possibilities of partnership: By working together, we can create more value than if we work individually. That process of creating shared value deepens trust, increases collaboration, and strengthens relationships--a virtuous cycle that leads to healthier workplace dynamics and outcomes.

Reducing Performance Bias

Even well-intentioned managers can fall victim to their own cognitive traps, like seeking information that confirms their preexisting beliefs--confirmation bias--or placing too much stock in the superiority of their own views, known as self-confidence bias. In my book The Feedback Fix, I showed the debilitating effects of these assumptions on everyday conversations. A fixed mindset allows those cognitive biases to creep, since it does little to offset--and may even reinforce--our natural blinders.

A growth mindset can encourage you to take a closer look at your intuitions. Believing that others have yet to reveal their best work flips the performance script: Rather than assail others for what they fail to produce, you can seek ways to support the emergent growth of everyone on your team. That optimism spreads quickly throughout the group, and prompts employees to adopt a growth mindset as well.

You don't need the preternatural talents of a Steph Curry to achieve a growth mindset--just a commitment towards seeing others not just for who they are, but who they are becoming.

Published on: Oct 15, 2018