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  • Writer's picturePeter F Gallagher

Change Management - Fixed Verses Growth Mindset

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Growth Mindset Leaders Embrace Change

For the last few decades change management programmes have become a way of life for most organisations. Change disruption has become the order of the day and with the rapid introduction of newer technology the pace of change will increase. However, even with various approaches to driving change initiatives, we are constantly reminded that 70% of change or transformation programmes fail to provide the benefits initially defined. Some of the key challenges when implementing change are employee resistance and not learning or applying the new skills, as well as adopting the new behaviours. These traits can be described as aspects of a fixed mindset when change implementation really requires a growth mindset.

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Fixed Mindset to Change: Disruption and change by default nearly always has a negative impact on work life. Change Resistance is the reaction by the organisation, department or employees when they perceive that an organisational change coming their way could be a threat to them. They are comfortable with the current state and they stick to what they know.

Growth Mindset to Change: Embrace disruption and change to improve organisation performance and to learn new skills. Mistakes will be made, but this adds to the learning and creates advocates of the change (change agents) developing new capability and moving the organisation towards adoption and sustainable change. Continual learning, development and trying new things keeps advocates simulated and excited..

"If you do not change the employee mindset and behaviour, you will not get organisational change" ~ Peter F Gallagher

Growth Mindset Leaders: These leaders sponsor, communicate and lead the change. They are the behavioural and cultural architects of change. Leadership teams play a critical role in making change successful, as they have a unique and powerful role in the organisation. Their role is to translate the vision of change from the CEO through to the employees whilst ensuring the department managers communicate the same consistent message. They will coach the new mindset and behaviours that are needed to make the change successful. Nothing will undermine change success more than leaders not role modelling the new mindset and behaviours. Growth mindset leaders are successful because they are not afraid to fail, they learn and lead by example.

Fixed Mindset Leaders: Tend to consider themselves as superior to others and classify employees of the organisation as more or less intelligent in comparison to themselves. The deadly consequence is that they have already been promoted based on this mindset and this behaviour has therefore been reinforced, to the detriment of the organisation. Typically, these behaviours will be emulated by their direct reports who in turn will be promoted based purely on their likeness to the leader and measure of perceived success. This will contaminate the organisation’s future, unless external and ruthless intervention is executed.

“Fixed mindset leaders will quickly contaminate an organisation by killing growth and creativity, as well as promoting incompetence based on their likeness. This cycle will be replicated unless shareholders intervene ruthlessly” ~ Peter F Gallagher

Growth Mindset Managers: Managers and Supervisors with a growth mindset will see and express significantly more positive views about their employees than those with a fixed-mindset. They will rate them as more innovative, collaborative and committed to the change. Managers with a growth mindset will see the potential for employees to develop new skills and behaviours to adopt the change. They will not only ask the employees for feedback on their performance but will provide positive feedback to them as well as encourage peer to peer feedback. They will continuously facilitate two-way communication throughout the change, coach and create an environment for employees to develop and grow with them.

Fixed Mindset Managers: Are less likely to engage the employee to communicate the change by using Awareness, Understanding, Involvement, Learning and Motivation (AUILM) to continue the new way of working. Without engagement and communication, resistance will build against the change.

Growth Mindset Employees: Employees with a growth mindset tend to embrace and be the advocates of change, keen to adopt the new skills and behaviours. These employees believe that basic skills and qualities are things you can cultivate through your own efforts. Everyone can grow and change through application and experience within the right environment. The fantastic thing about these employees is that their focus is on improving their skills and behaviours to adopt the new change and not on wasting energy by resisting inevitable change.

Fixed Mindset Employees: These employees are inclined to avoid change and opportunities as these are potential challenges that could expose their deficiencies and abilities. Additionally, positive and constructive feedback is mainly seen as criticism and is usually ignored as it could be seen as failure or inadequacy. While this group can adopt victim mentality, they should be classified as change rebels. Without engaging these employees, the change is unlikely to be successful.

Growth Mindset Organisations: Provide employees with structural support aligning them with the organisation’s processes and systems. They provide the change resources and learning environment because they understand that growth-mindset teams accomplish more. These organisations believe that growth mindset teams fully embrace change, set higher standards, aspire to excellence, work together better and outperform teams whose members have a fixed mindset.

Fixed Mindset Organisations: Endorse a fixed view of intelligence i.e. a culture of genius or talent, typical of what happened in Enron. For the change to work we buy the required talent and are less concerned about the cultural fit. This is opposite of growth culture where the organisation builds and develops the employee through a process of continued learning and development of the new skills and behaviours.

In summary, there is no doubt that adopting a growth mindset will greatly enhance organisational change adoption and help to sustain long term benefits, however this will not be achieved in isolation. Change management is a process that requires organisation insights, tools and techniques to support the organisation, its leadership teams and individuals going through a change, the transition from the current state ‘a’ to the future state ‘B’. These are interlinked and fundamental for successful change and include the following key elements:

~ Programme approach using a Change Management Framework

~ Employee Change Lifecycle Support (AUILM)

~ Behaviour Change Design through to Reinforcement


Peter F Gallagher is a Change Management Global Thought Leader, Expert, International Speaker, Author and Leadership Alignment Coach.

Ranked #1 Change Management Global Thought Leader: Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Change Management (May 2020) by Thinkers360.

Business Book Ranking: Change Management Pocket Guide - Leadership of Change® Volume 2, ranked within the top 50 Business and Technology Books (Jan 2020) from Thinkers360 Thought Leaders.



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