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5 ways Belbin helps cultivate a growth mindset

Adopting a “growth mindset” from an early age reaps considerable rewards.

Research at Stanford University has shown that students who believe their intelligence can be developed outperform those who believe it is fixed. And the same positive patterns continue on into adulthood.

Employees in a “growth mindset” company are 34% more likely to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company.

On the flipside, a cocktail of competencies and performance management can foster an organisational culture where employees feel they need to excel at everything, without so much as breaking a sweat. “When people work for a company that esteems them for their innate talent above all else, they tend to run and hide when their image is at risk.”

Employees in a “growth mindset” company are:

  • 47% likelier to say that their colleagues are trustworthy;

  • 34% likelier to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company;

  • 65% likelier to say that the company supports risk taking;

  • 49% likelier to say that the company fosters innovation.

Does our culture rely too heavily on the idea of “innate talent” as a measure of potential, discouraging people from making the effort – and the mistakes – needed to learn and grow?

When it comes to personality and behaviour tests, “traits” and “types” sound like classic fixed mindset language, without much room for manoeuvre. So are we labelling people under the banner of self-understanding, and then encouraging them to play it safe in their comfort zones?

When it comes to Belbin, it all depends on the way the language of Team Roles is used.

1. It’s about pushing our boundaries.

Belbin is intended as a learning opportunity that illuminates the way you behave – and how this might be different to the behaviours of those around you.

Too often we see people listening intently to mention of their preferred roles, only to tune out when it comes to the others. Team Role behaviours aren’t a “fingerprint” – they can and do change. Whilst we may have a number of preferred roles, we also have manageable roles – behaviours we can cultivate by pushing ourselves to try something new. Belbin gives you the confidence to understand your strengths. This is a starting-point – a platform from which to explore different ways of doing things (and get things wrong), not a “get out of jail free” card to cherry-pick certain kinds of work.

2. It’s about what the team needs.

If individuals are encouraged to view their tendencies – and those of their colleagues – as fixed, this ignores another important part of the equation: what is required.

Sometimes the team needs a certain role and it’s time to make a Team Role sacrifice – in other words, to take on a role which feels like an uncomfortable fit. This is a prime opportunity to learn something about yourself and your capabilities. Likewise, if you’re only ever given work that fits your Team Role styles, you’re more likely to become entrenched in those behaviours. Instead, managers need to recognise that there can be more than one Team Role approach to a problem and encourage Team Role “cross-over” to allow for different approaches.

3. It’s about admitting that tendency to stick with what we know – and risking it anyway.

We need to recognise when our thoughts and actions are perpetuating a fixed mindset and react accordingly.

Rather than thinking: I’m not good at networking, we might frame this in Team Role language: My social roles are low and I tend to get nervous speaking to new people. If we can recognise that Resource Investigators possess this skill in abundance, we can see it as a learned behaviour, rather than an intrinsic personality trait that some are born with. Not only that, but we know who to ask for help.

4. It’s about embracing failure.

One characteristic of a growth mindset is recognising failure as key to success. NASA is well known for rejecting recruits with unblemished success stories on their CVs in favour of those who have encountered and overcome hurdles.

For Belbin too, “weakness” isn’t a dirty word. We recognise that strengths come at a cost. If you’re that outgoing people person who thrives on networking and is always buzzing with the latest thing, you may not be happy sitting alone in an office, methodically following up those contacts a few weeks later!

The idea is to devise strategies for success, whether that involves implementing strategies that manage your own weaknesses (“I’ll tackle three leads at a time with breaks on social media”) or partnering with others who might be able to complement your weaknesses with their strengths.

5. It’s about working together.

Dweck found that having children focus on the process that leads to learning (i.e. hard work, problem-solving, making mistakes and encountering failure), could foster a growth mindset.

But it isn’t just about effort – banging one’s head against a brick wall isn’t praiseworthy either. Dweck noted: “Effort is a means to an end – and that end is learning and improving. Sheer effort isn’t enough to grow.”

One option is to try different strategies and seek help from others.

In the context of work, that doesn’t mean that others will necessarily end up doing the work for you, but their new perspective may just unlock something you needed to get things moving from question to answer.

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  • [1] How Companies Can Profit from a “Growth Mindset”, Harvard Business Review, November, 2014

  • [2]Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’, Carol Dweck, Education Week, September 22, 2015

Full credit for this article goes to: Victoria Bird, R&D guru at Belbin.

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