Is the “Growth Mindset” an Agile Mindset?

In Jeff Haden’s recent post entitled “The One Attitude Every Successful Person Has”, I was struck at how aligned this attitude is with the “Agile Mindset”. What do you think? An Agile Mindset is not reserved for specific people – rather, this is the attitude that anyone can have, but it might require significant changes in what a person believes…which in turn influences how a person behaves in an organization.

I invite you to share in my journey through Jeff’s post as I surface a few themes that resonated with me. I am a relentless and continuous learner, so consider enriching my thoughts in the comments section below, add more themes, or even challenge my thinking:

 

1. The reality is that small accomplishments lead to confidence — and that talent is often overrated.

With an Agile Mindset, we no longer believe that the success of complex endeavors is measured by ‘all requirements on time and within budget’. Instead, the outcomes of success are measured frequently and incrementally in terms of value. Teams that are able to accomplish these small wins along the way (vs. trying to deliver everything at the end) have much higher morale and CONFIDENCE.

Talent could be a competitive advantage, but without this regular feeling of accomplishment, talent is often wasted – sadly, I’ve witnessed situations like these play out as well.

 

2. Those with a “growth mindset” have a much more malleable view on success. They do not view failure as a reflection of their ability, but rather as a starting point for experimentation and testing of ideas.

Add a checkmark to the Agile Mindset. Responsible failure invites learning moments in People, Teams and Organizations. In fact, The Scrum Frameworkuses the pillars of empiricism to encourage fast failure as a way of managing complexity and risk.

 

3. Talent is essentially a head start in the race to mastery — the good news is that any goal worth achieving is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

This aligns with my experience as well. But when this talent is assembled to tackle complex initiatives in a ‘Fixed Mindset’ organizational culture, then it often ends with challenging (or even disastrous) outcomes. Have you ever worked on a long, drawn-out waterfall software development effort with extremely talented people? What was it like? If those same people had formed into Teams in a ‘Growth Mindset’ culture, how might the outcomes have been different? Examining this scenario further, what if a ‘Growth Mindset’ culture had brought less-talented people to the table? Would they have achieved better outcomes than a talent-laden Team in waterfall?

Success is less dependent on the hand you are dealt and more dependent on how you play the hand.

 

4. Focus on creating small wins through changing your habits…nail it, then scale it.

For those who live and breathe the Agile Mindset, this will resonate clearly. I see changing habits as a form of organizational change. For example, those who are new to (or struggling to try and understand) Scrum have to undergo a change in how they think and act. Scrum promotes this continuous learning and improvement opportunity, which leads to the small wins that open the door for healthy scaling of Scrum in an organization. How do you see it?

 

5. A key trait in the growth mindset: a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.

A long time ago (before my own transition away from a ‘Fixed Mindset’), I had an organizational leader once tell me:  ‘Developers are not allowed to bring any technical books to their desks…we are hiring you all because you’re smart and know this stuff, so you shouldn’t need the books.’

As I reflect on that challenged statement, clearly that leader was lost in the ‘Fixed Mindset’. I find that healthy Agile environments are those where everyone in that situation embodies a passion for learning — delivery teams, product stakeholders, managers and senior leaders. But not just in the interest of learning! Couple this with the hunger for incremental and iterative accomplishments (i.e., achieving short, frequent and valuable goals) and I believe you have a good portion of the Agile Mindset in action.

 

6. If you want to improve in anything, start seeing mistakes and failures for what they are — the way you learn, and improve, and eventually succeed.

Reflecting on this statement, try asking yourself these questions:

How healthy is the ‘Growth Mindset’ in your organization?

How about in yourself?

What can you do to influence your organization to fully embrace this attitude?

 

What insights do you have to share? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.

__________________

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Agile Leadership Lessons From My Dad

Father’s Day offers an annual moment for me to reflect on the journey of a humble and influential man whose life was tragically cut short in 2002 – my Dad. Although it has been a number of years since his passing, he continues to shape my mindset in meaningful and profound ways.

For this Father’s Day, I invite you to consider some important Agile leadership lessons that my Dad taught me during my younger, naive years.

Dad – If I were 22 years old again, I would’ve listened and learned from you with a much keener ear. If only I knew THEN what I know NOW.

1. Agile leaders tap into the potential of people through kindness and empathy.

As suggested by many in my profession, kindness is an Agile value that is baked into the DNA of a genuine leader. I made many costly mistakes during my childhood, but rather than ‘corrective action’ and a fear of unforgiving punishment, my Dad would turn my mistakes into powerful learning conversations between us – all in an effort to help me grow and improve. When I had a troubled moment, he would gently connect my sorrow to a shared experience from his own childhood, the consequences he (also) suffered, and the valuable lessons he had learned. With his capacity for empathy, we would walk the learning path together, and through a kind demeanor, he helped me keep a clear head as I would think through my own failures and search for new & improved ways of handling situations throughout my childhood and into adulthood.

In my travels through organizations small and large, I (sadly) don’t witness genuine kindness enough from authoritative leaders in the workplace. We have an enormous opportunity to develop our own leadership potential by simply recognizing that we all have weaknesses, we all make mistakes, and that kindness is a stance for encouraging healthy, continuous learning in everyone.

2. Agile leaders fuel connections that lead to positive outcomes.

As an early riser, my Dad had a specific morning routine that led him to one of our small-town breakfast establishments where various city figures would congregate daily. The police chief, public servants and local business leaders would use those cherished early mornings to share a pot (or three!) of coffee and discuss various topics of interest. When I would visit my hometown during college breaks, Dad would invite me to join these breakfasts and I always remember how he would scan the newspaper, point to an opinion article, then ask provocative questions to the breakfast crew to generate discussion. The dialogue that followed was rich, full of productive and respectful debate (and even conflict), but with his warm smile, deep knowledge of our community’s founding principles, and incredible never forget a face or a name talent, everyone would leave breakfast with an ever-stronger bond. His ability to strengthen the connections between these city leaders would have a lasting effect in our community. These were the people (in positions of power) who shaped city and county policy, and we found that the environment for these breakfast conversations always centered around a common purpose that would feed into decisions that held positive intent for the community at large. Although my Dad did not hold an authoritative position in our hometown, his conversational skills and approachable personality held great influence on how these community leaders would think and act on behalf of the citizens. It was never about him – it was always about others and influencing them to think of the greater good.

You don’t have to be in a titled position of authority to be an influential leader in your organization. Spend time getting to know people for real, what they care about, and learn how to facilitate open dialogue by creating trusted relationships between others where vulnerability is valued. Connect people to a common, positive purpose that aligns with your organization’s vision of the future. Reinforce this common purpose when conversations get heated.

3. Agile leaders sacrifice their personal egos for a purpose greater than their own.

My Dad was incredibly humble … almost to a fault. He never took credit for anything, nor did he feel an urge to put his ego front & center for his own personal gain. The man was super intelligent, an uncanny connector-of-people, instilled a deeply-rooted value system in his boys, and sacrificed so much of himself in an effort to bring out the best in our community and our family. When he died, he only had $100 cash to his name, but if you had seen how many people came and spoke about him at his funeral, you would’ve thought that he rolled in riches.

Despite years of mentoring from my Dad, it took a long time for this learning to sink into my natively-wired, ego-centric personality. I eventually discovered that success is not about me – it’s about connecting to a larger purpose that is meaningful, positive and can change an organization for the better. With that thinking, high-performance is the lagging indicator of success. As an Agile leader, you realize that people are not a threat to your career – in fact, your goal is to lift everyone around you to become better than you. In order to align with that thinking, you must search deep into your soul and decide what’s important – fueling your ego to the next job promotion, or serving a greater purpose that brings out the best in others?

 

Daniel Sloan (IV) and Daniel Sloan (III) – Univ. of Florida Homecoming 1999

 

 

What insights do you have to share? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below so we can all learn from each other.

__________________

If my writings resonate with you, please consider spreading this message so we can energize and inspire the entire professional world together. I invite you to ‘Follow’ my professional journey through LinkedIn. I am also on Twitter.