Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?
I’m sure you’ve heard the story.
“Thou, O Queen, art the fairest in the land,” said the mirror.
Then one day, the mirror said to the queen, “Snow White, O Queen, is the fairest of them all.”
Well, Snow White became the object of the queen’s hatred.
The queen couldn’t stand to have someone fairer than she.
Here’s an interesting thought … We all know that Snow White was prettier than the queen, but let’s imagine (we can do that here), that the mirror had listed the five things that the queen needed to do in order to be the fairest in the land?
Would the queen have listened?
I’m going to hazard a guess and suggest that the queen likely wouldn’t have listened to the mirror. She would likely have thrown a rock at the mirror and continued believing she was the fairest.
I imagine the Queen wasn’t the type to listen to constructive criticism or feedback.
The Growth Mindset vs The Fixed Mindset
Carol Dweck, an American psychologist, and her team, conducted a study about 35 years ago looking at students and their perceptions around failure. One of the things they noticed, fairly early in the study, was that some students were much more impacted by failure than others.
These early findings prompted Dr. Dweck and her team of researchers to expand the study to include many thousands of students, and ultimately resulted in her coining the term “fixed mindset”, and “growth mindset”.
What they found was that those students who believed that they were capable of improving, put extra effort into their endeavors, which ultimately led to better success. They came to recognize that the harder they worked, and the better they overcame adversity, the better their results.
Dr. Dweck studied the link between mindset, and achievement, and discovered that if the student believed that their brain could grow, then they behaved differently. They took risks and searched for opportunities that allowed them to position themselves into a growth-oriented mindset.
The researchers then asked the question – can we change mindsets?
What they determined is that yes, it is possible to train someone from a fixed mindset, into a growth-oriented mindset, and when you do, the individual seeks opportunities for achievement.
Here’s what Dweck said in a 2012 interview:
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
Fixed vs Growth Mindset in Business
Now let’s move this back into a real-life scenario, and I will demonstrate an example of a contest I judged where I worked with a few entrepreneurs, some with a fixed mindset, and some with a growth mindset.
A couple of years ago I coached three university teams for a business competition. The contest is open to current students from schools across North America who are currently running a business. The top prize is $50,000, and the second-place prize is $25,000—a lot of money, especially to a university student.
All three pitches I coached had terrific businesses and business plans. All three were weak in the area of financials, and I shared pretty much the same advice with each of them. Two of the teams listened and made tweaks to their pitches.
The president of the third team spent over 15 minutes arguing with me as to why he was unable to provide a 3- and 5-year forecast. Frankly, it shouldn’t have taken that much effort. He just refused to listen.
In the end, the two teams that did listen and made the necessary adjustments, not just to the financials but to the overall pitch, won first and second place.
The team that didn’t listen didn’t even place. It’s no surprise. Their business idea was excellent, but the president was too stubborn to listen to constructive feedback and to handle criticism. He deflected. In the end, he lost. He will be a very difficult person to be in business with, and although he’s a smart guy, I definitely wouldn’t invest in one of his ventures.
I can think of a few situations over the last many months where I’ve provided constructive feedback to an individual, and they refused to listen, which makes me question why they engaged me in the first place.
Given what I write about, I’m often called to help entrepreneurs with different areas of their business, and what presents as multi-year stagnant revenues and marketing issues might be something entirely different. Yes, marketing is likely a problem and needs to be addressed, but what initially seems like a marketing issue is oftentimes a deeper problem unrelated to marketing that needs to be addressed first.
For example, it’s possible the owner is micromanaging the staff, and the company will never expand beyond the skills of the owner. Or the company’s financials are a mess, resulting in poor cash flow. Both issues should be addressed prior to addressing marketing.
Fixing the marketing or hiring a Director of Sales to grow the sales team could very well be a Band-Aid if neither the cash flow nor micromanaging are fixed.
People grow by being self-reflective and by making adjustments to their behavioral patterns. For those who are open-minded, that have a growth mindset, that self-reflection can be cathartic. For those who believe they are perfect, that self-reflection might not result in improvement, and have a fixed mindset, they might believe they are perfect, so there’s no need to change.
If you’ve been stagnant in the same crappy job, or your company sales have been flat for a few years, it’s likely something you’re doing (or not doing).
Embracing a Learning Mindset
Your best return on time and dollars spent will be from investing in yourself. What that means is improving your skills, connections, general, and industry knowledge.
Approach your investments and learning from the perspective that there is always room to improve.
People have no problem throwing money away on clothes they don’t need, large homes, fancy cars, and so on, but they balk at the prospect of taking a $1,000 course, a few days off to attend an industry conference in another city, or hiring a consultant to provide honest, objective feedback when required.
Whatever it is you choose to do, once you recognize that you need to make some changes to the way you’re doing things, approach the change as a personal challenge, with an open mind, and listen to the feedback. If someone is willing to provide you with constructive criticism, maybe, just maybe, there’s a hint of truth in what they’re saying.
So let’s look a bit further than the constructive criticism, and question whether you’re possibly holding your business back.
Yes, You Can Grow Your Business
There’s a famous expression from Mahatma Gandhi I’m sure you’ve heard: “Become the change you want to see in the world.”
I’m going to adapt the expression to: Become the talent you want to see in your company
Your skills until today have gotten you to where you’re at. Tomorrow’s success is dependent on the new skills you haven’t yet mastered.
Building your business, or expanding your career, is going to depend on the new skills you can bring to the table. The new directions you can push yourself and your business.
When was the last time you:
- Went to an industry conference?
- Spoke with some new suppliers or distributors about new product(s) they’re bringing to market?
- Got a new certification on one of the products that your company sells? Or a new product that you don’t yet sell?
- Established an initiative to reach out to some new people?
- Joined a new peer-group or business group of some sort?
- Took a course on marketing?
I want to spend a few minutes on the last two.
Meet Some New People, or Join a Peer-Group
New people can bring new ideas and initiatives to the table. Meeting other business leaders, who have accomplished successful things with their businesses will help you understand some of the things you could be doing with your own business.
It’s time to start learning from others. What makes them successful. What makes their business successful. What things have they done in their business recently that have produced successful results?
Then take that new information, and become a sponge for knowledge. Absorb it, and use that to grow your own business and career.
Propel Your Businesses Marketing to the Next Level
Do you understand marketing? Social media? Content marketing? Branding? SEO? PPC? Conversion Rate Optimization?
It’s going to be very difficult to hire a jack of all trades who understands all of these elements.
Marketing will be the difference between where you are today, and where you want to go, and you should become the marketing guru who knows all of these elements.
You don’t need to do all of these things yourself, BUT, you need to understand them. You need to understand them intimately.
This is the type of knowledge that you need in order to grow your business. You need to embrace a learning mindset.
Expand your knowledge and skills. Meet new people. Learn from them. Open your mind to new ideas, skills, and adopt them into your business.
You’re going to make mistakes along the way, but, you need to make many pivots, changes, and try new things. And with that come small failures.
Failure isn’t the opposite of success. It’s a stepping stone to success. You need to get comfortable with making mistakes and failing. Fail often. Fail fast.
You need to be open-minded enough to know that you don’t know everything. It’s time to try new things. Stay optimistic. Then, improve, iterate, test, and do it all over again.
“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
On a somewhat related note, you might enjoy this article: The Rich vs The Poverty Mindset and The Psychology Stopping You From Becoming Rich