Does Your Practice Culture Foster a Fixed Mindset or Growth Mindset?

By Practice Growth July 07, 2021

At a glance, it seems obvious: believing that you can develop your individual skills and talents yields more results than believing that everything you can do is innate. If you think that your talents are completely inborn, you have no motivation to grow or to change, even if doing so would be to your benefit. Why is this, and why is it beneficial for entire businesses to adopt a growth mindset?

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

First, let’s explain the difference between fixed and growth mindsets. According to Carol Dweck, who originally coined these terms, “Individuals who believe that their talents can be developed...have a growth mindset,” while people with a fixed mindset “believe their talents are innate gifts.” Someone with a fixed mindset is less likely to develop their own skills and talents. By contrast, someone with a growth mindset puts their energy towards bettering themselves, constantly building–or “growing”–their skill sets.

Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives. – Carol Dweck”

With this in mind, how do these two mindsets apply to creating the best workplace?

Mindset in the Workplace

Small Business Growth Concept. Small Business Growth Represented - NFCC  Debt Relief - Small BusinessAccording to Carol Dweck, employees of companies who utilize a large-scale version of the growth mindset feel more empowered and are more likely to commit to their employers’ vision for the company. Employees in these companies feel more supported and are more likely to collaborate with their colleagues, and they are more likely to find ways to improve and streamline or improve the way that things have always been done. By contrast, employees in companies who employ a large-scale fixed mindset report “cheating and deception among employees” in order to “gain an advantage in the talent race.”

However, even within companies that employ a mass-scale growth mindset and encourage it among their employees, employees may still have misunderstandings about the concept.

Common Misunderstandings

Employees within companies that use a far-reaching growth mindset are often confused as to what “growth mindset” truly means. They often confuse it with flexibility and open-mindedness and therefore believe that they already have a growth mindset. However, according to Carol Dweck, “Everyone is actually a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience.” As such, a growth mindset is not an innate trait within anyone, as everyone has a point of view that mixes the two concepts.

Furthermore, employees also confuse the growth mindset with positive reinforcement. A growth mindset DOES NOT always yield the expected results. As such, employers that base their mission on a growth mindset do not solely reward effort; they reward the process that yields the best results (e.g. asking others for help when it is needed, formulating new strategies, learning from mistakes). This is different from positive reinforcement, which rewards a favorable behavior in order for a subject to associate that behavior with a specific reward.

With these common misunderstandings in mind, how can healthcare practices benefit from fostering a growth mindset in their practice?

Benefits of a Growth Mindset

Adopting a growth mindset within a practice is critical to the success of that practice. While practices with a fixed mindset will have static growth within their market, practices that adopt a growth mindset yield better results for patients and the bottom line.

For starters, a practice with a growth mindset believes that its employees are capable of growing their skill sets and talents. Such practices are more likely to invest in employees and promote from within their ranks, which saves money on external recruitment, builds employee loyalty, and enhances the overall development of their leadership. This, in turn, builds employee morale and leads employees to believe that their personal development is tied to practice success.

Additionally, practices with a growth mindset are more likely to use constructive criticism rather than negative criticism, which in turn leads to learning opportunities for employees and encourages skill development. This learning leads employees to try different approaches to the same problem and potentially innovate and streamline the solution for future employees with the same problem. This encourages communication among employees and builds the idea that they are on a team rather than working within an “every man and woman for himself” model.

How Can Your Practice Develop a Growth Culture?

As the benefits of a growth mindset become increasingly clear, it is crucial to get to the bottom of how to develop a culture of growth within your practice.

6 Benefits of Teamwork in the Workplace | Sandler TrainingFor starters, accountability is crucial within any growth-focused culture. If you cannot accept responsibility for your shortcomings, you cannot accept the credit for your achievements. Additionally, others will follow suit and be more likely to hold themselves accountable for their mistakes. This also increases self-awareness among staff, which increases humility and helps to align each employee with the practice mission to offer the best patient care. 

Another great way to achieve a growth mindset is to emphasize action and course correction over perfection. The first one to make a move holds an advantage over someone who perfects their move and then does it at the last minute. This does not mean encouraging sloppy performance; rather, it encourages finding what does not work first and then calibrating for success.

Finally, a great way to develop a culture based around a growth mindset is to encourage all employees to become experts in whatever they do. If they are doing billing & coding, they should aim to become the best their company has ever seen. If they are in optical sales, they should aim to become the best closer in practice history. If they are the front desk receptionist, they should aim to be the most efficient, friendly, and positive person in the practice. If your staff members are experts in their respective fields, your practice will eventually become a frontrunner in its specialty.

Final Thoughts

A growth mindset will not only benefit the people who work in your practice, but it will eventually attract more patients and professional referrals. Every employee who has a growth mindset is an asset to the practice, as they are more likely to grow their skill sets, hold themselves accountable, innovate to find the most efficient solutions to problems that may arise, and feel more fulfilled in their role. By contrast, a fixed mindset leads employees to become set in their ways and develop an “every man and woman for themselves” attitude, which decreases morale and overall productivity. It is crucial that practices employ a growth mindset in order to grow and benefit their employees and patients.

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