How to focus on trust and adopt a growth mindset

Business Impact: How to focus on trust and adopt a growth mindset
Business Impact: How to focus on trust and adopt a growth mindset

How do you talk about yourself? Would you describe yourself, for example, as “good at maths”, “a natural athlete”, or “honest”? A lot of people think that these traits are a fixed part of your personality and an intrinsic part of your identity that can’t be changed. These thoughts are the product of a ‘fixed mindset’, according to acclaimed Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

A person with a growth mindset is far more likely to embrace new information and challenges, see effort as necessary, be inspired by other’s success and learn from criticism, but leaders must consider that it’s almost impossible to adopt this mindset across your team if there is no foundation of trust.

Building trust in a team translates to more energy, less stress, fewer sick days and less burnout – all crucial elements when it comes to forming a healthy, efficient and stable team who are willing and able to adopt a growth mentality. Leaders who know they can trust those around them and that they can trust you in return enable everyone to enjoy the freedom to try new things, innovate and create new ways of approaching problems.

Chemical reactions

Our emotions and behaviours change when we build trust with the people around us; it literally affects our brain chemistry and it is up to leaders to adopt strategies that build this type of culture, if a business truly wants to be resilient and attract the best talent in the industry.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. There are biological reasons as to why we act the way we do when we trust another person or group of people and it all comes down to oxytocin, otherwise known as the trust chemical. However, when we experience negative stress, we produce the cortisol hormone that elicits a fight, flight or freeze response. When we are stressed, we have no need to be trusting.

While the workplace hopefully doesn’t pose that level of threat, a toxic culture, rife with negative stress leads to the same cortisol response, inhibiting oxytocin and leading us to be on high alert and less likely to trust.

Ultimately, it will protect a company’s bottom line if its people are in an environment where they can thrive. One of the biggest challenges facing business today is the oncoming tsunami of stress and burnout that we will see in the coming years because people look set to be returning to the hamster wheel, post-pandemic.  

The workforce of today isn’t going to stay in a role for 20 or 30 years, so the organisations that are more adaptable to the latest needs and ideas are the ones that are going to last and that will attract the brightest and best new talent. Without the best people, you’ve lose a competitive advantage, so working to address issues with trust and mindset now is not only a good move for your people, but one that is also vitally important to your bank manager, board and investors.

Encouraging a growth mindset

Productivity and resilience are the product of a workplace culture based on trust and a growth mindset. So, what can leader start doing today to encourage these behaviours within their team?

Invest in positive relationships: According to neuroscientist Paul Zak, having a caring habit and cognitive empathy is your best bet for increasing oxytocin and building trust. If you do nothing else, work on your active listening as a starting point for relationships that will help both you and your team to thrive.

Be present: Get rid of distractions – don’t text or send emails while you are having a conversation. Look your colleague in the eye and listen with an intent to understand, rather than an intent to respond right away. Ask questions that show you are interested in what they are saying and pay attention to non-verbal cues, such as them looking excited about a project or nervous about what they are about to tell you.

Empower your team: When people feel safe and supported, empowering them leads to great things. Show your team that you trust them to do the big things and explain to them that while you will always have their back, they have shown you that they are more than capable of managing this piece of work on their own.

Ultimately, we need to commit to building environments that celebrate when we succeed, but that also give team members the space to be honest with leaders when they are struggling, or something hasn’t gone to plan.

Ivan Hollingsworth is the Founder and Director of Centric Consultants

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Business Impact Volume 17 (3: 2023)

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