Stanford University professor of psychology, Carol Dweck, has become well-known for her work on the power of a growth mindset. Her research shows this is vital to success and fulfilling our potential.
Spring is a great time for gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere to reflect on growth. I enjoy perennial gardening in our yard. As I have tended our gardens over the years, I am struck by how some plants will do well in some locations and terribly elsewhere in the garden. Each spring and fall I move plants around to match their preferences for particular soil, wind, and sun conditions, as well as their proximity to other plants. Cutting off old blooms to encourage new ones and pruning plants that are becoming overgrown is a constant chore.
At times I am pleasantly surprised by how some lackluster plants thrive in a new location better suited to their needs. Since each perennial has a different bloom time and length, one of the gardening challenges is to keep color spread throughout the garden from early spring to late fall.
Positive psychology research shows that focusing on strengths is a revolutionary approach that’s proving to nurture the most vigorous and sustained growth in those we lead. Like a good gardener, effective leaders treat each person in their organization as an individual with his or her own unique aspirations, strengths, and characteristics. Leaders then work to put people in the best place for them to thrive and succeed. They mix and match team members to build a well-rounded team that can show its best colors according to the season — or is best suited to the current operating conditions of the organization or the team.
Strong leaders tend to each person on their team and coach them to change habits or prune overgrown methods that may prevent further growth. They’ll move team members around to avoid overcrowding and to bring out the best in each person.
I’ve been reflecting on growth as I look at my awakening garden from my office window and prepare for growing participants in our upcoming public workshops The Extraordinary Leader and The Extraordinary Coach. It’s highly satisfying to see deeper personal understanding and development of leadership effectiveness and coaching skills blossom.
Highly effective leaders are always on the grow. They don’t get stuck in old habits and fixed mindsets. Constant growth, development, and adaptability to change comes through continuous learning. The 19th-century British theologian and essayist, John Henry Newman once said, “Growth is the only evidence of life.”
Where’s your evidence of life? Are you a leader on the grow? Are you stunting or stimulating the growth of those you lead?