In a recent article in Business Week, John Ryan states, >”Recently I’ve enjoyed reading about the work of Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Her research explores and explains questions that have interested me for years as a leader. Essentially, she has found that people generally exhibit what she calls either “growth mindsets” or “fixed mindsets.” Those with growth mindsets believe they can get better at what they do, that they have reservoirs of untapped potential. They realize that promise by working hard and making incremental improvements over time, whether they are athletes, or writers, or surgeons. Those with fixed mindsets, however, believe they can only go as far as their natural abilities will take them. They think talent, rather than hard work, is the fundamental component of success. They are often scared to challenge themselves because they are terribly afraid of failurewhich, in their minds, is an indictment of their abilities rather than an opportunity to learn and do better next time”
Interestingly, a similar concept is covered in the Talent Code, quoting a study that showed that kids that were told, “Great work!” or “Wow, you really worked hard at this!” did much better than those told “You’re so smart.” for similar reasons. If the child told they are smart encounters more difficult challenges, they can easily jump to the conclusion that they are not smart after all, instead of improving like we do with any other skill using practice and working at it until we improve.
So to adults involved with teaching leadership to children, be sure to focus on how hard they worked and point out their progress. That is how we all improve. This approach can also help reduce the chance the child will feel they’ve peaked in their talent, and thus stop their growth. As we try to see the young person 10 years into the future, it may be easier to see their potential and to look beyond the foibles of their current age and abilities.
Then as we actively work to make the environment around them support their growth, they will grow.