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Will You Be Ready to Hire a Growth-Minded Leader?

I recently joined Carolyn Washburn’s Vistage group. If you are a senior level executive, you should consider joining a Vistage group if you haven’t already.  Vistage membership provides senior level executive leadership the opportunity to connect with other leaders to learn, enhance and develop their leadership.

It was at a Vistage meeting Carolyn hosted where I heard Dr. Eve Meceda discuss fixed mindset vs. change mindset. I greatly valued our time with Dr. Meceda since evaluating candidate mindset is crucial to Centennial’s executive search process. In fact, we commit to providing candidates with a growth mindset to our client companies.  Whether you partner with a search firm or not, it is important that your hiring process discerns which candidates have the mindset that will help your organization grow.

First, the Difference Between Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Things appear to come easy to those with a fixed mindset.  They often don’t try things outside their area of expertise or comfort zone.  Individuals with a fixed mindset need to look smart. They typically do not listen well, and have a tough time understanding another’s point of view.  Fixed mindsets sometimes avoid challenges and can give up easily.

Those with a growth mindset generally have a love of learning.  They take on challenges.  They are in constant pursuit of improvement. They have a “can do,” “it will happen,” attitude.  They value feedback and use it to their advantage.  They are inspired by others and are willing to put in the effort to get “it” done.

Next, Determining the Difference When Hiring

Now that you know the descriptors that tend to define the two, it is important to learn how to spot them during the interview process.  It all boils down to the questions you ask, and a thoughtful consideration of the answers the candidate provides.

As I previously mentioned, finding candidates with a growth mindset is crucial to the success of Centennial’s executive search consulting projects.  We find that situational, “tell me about a time when,” questions are our best ally in ferreting out those with a fixed mindset.  For example, we ask candidates about recent failures and gauge their reaction to the question.  Was the question answered in a transparent manner?  More importantly, did the candidate share how growth resulted from the failure?

Another discussion we have with candidates revolves around how they develop and improve their own leadership.  This is important!  Do they read books on leadership?  Attend seminars and webinars? Take on volunteer responsibilities?  I am speculating that we will also ask candidates questions on how they developed their leadership during the Covid-19 crisis.  Some will have had the chance to develop their leadership through their work; others will have hopefully taken advantage of the time to learn more.

Worried That You Do Not Have a Growth Mindset?

Did you recognize yourself in the description of those with a fixed mindset?  I have some advice for you:  It’s never too late to change, and now is a good time to think about this more.  Employers seek candidates who have more of a growth mindset, so it is worth your while to try to improve.  There are plenty of resources out there for those seeking to change.  Research them and come up with a plan that works for you.

I offer this encouragement:

  • Recognize that you need to shift your thinking. Admitting to your weakness is a sign of strength—and the first indicator that a shift to a growth mindset is taking place!
  • Set aside time for introspection. If you are a “doer” that could be hard. Just know that it is not a waste of your time.  Ask yourself the following questions:  What would I like to learn more about? Are there any skills I would like to acquire? Who do I admire and why? What can I do to become more like that person?
  • Be unafraid of failure. This will take some self-talk.  Give yourself the latitude to try something new. Do not focus on the result; rather, focus on the process.  If you fail, determine what you learned, and move forward. There is a reason the windshield is a lot bigger than the rear-view mirror.
  • Dare to dream. Go ahead: Set a new goal.  Don’t worry too much on the “how” you are going to get there. Set the goal, get comfortable with the goal, then start thinking of your plan.

One final note of encouragement. Another great step toward a growth mindset is joining a roundtable group like Vistage.  If you are not a senior level leader, organizations like Toastmasters International, the Goering Center, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce are additional organization that can enhance your leadership. If you are not in our region, check your local chambers of commerce and universities.

In the words of Ben Franklin, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”  Take that first step toward “hiring or acquiring” a growth mindset today. You will be glad that you did!


Written by Becky Scheeler, Centennial’s Executive Vice President