Coaching Growth and Fixed Mindsets for Organizational Change Part 2

In part one of this blog, we discussed Carol Dweck’s concept of Fixed and Growth Mindsets, and how this could be useful in understanding resistance to organizational change. We looked at people with a Growth Mindset first; I would now like to turn our attention to the Fixed Mindset.

In our experience, many times the challenge of change comes from a small group of people. Viewing their resistance through the Mindset lens can help us think through how to overcome the challenge of implementation.

People with a Fixed Mindset are focused on being and appearing smart, and smarter than those around them. They are talented, gifted, “naturals”; they pick up on things and solve problems quickly and easily.

As a result, people of a Fixed Mindset may focus their effort on the risk of failure. Failure puts their talent – their high, Fixed intelligence – in doubt. So they may get stuck at one level of performance, avoiding the danger of challenge. Or their ego takes over, making them do anything to preserve the self-image of “the natural” who doesn’t need to expend effort to succeed. Think Al Dunlap, Lee Iacocca, both leaders with a Fixed mindset that ultimately destroyed organizational value.

To those with a Fixed Mindset, any new challenge which they are not certain of overcoming represents an almost existential threat. Motivating and rewarding people with these traits makes up the largest part of the challenge of change. But Mindset can be changed and learned, if you take a methodical and deliberate approach.

At Evolve we believe that there are five keys to implementation that address this need for change from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset, where change is welcomed and learned from. Here are the keys:


1. First you must understand that you are Changing Underlying Beliefs about themselves and the world. “If I fail, then I’m not smart, and who will I be?”. The change is intensely personal and will be pushed back.

2. Without intervention, the Fixed Mindset will keep operating in the same old ways. We must Intervene in the Drift, work with individuals to direct their energy in a new direction

3. Help people with a Fixed Mindset to Overcome Fear, especially fear of being judged. Make sure they understand that their ego is not at risk, it is safe to fail.

4. Create an environment that Enables Practice, where it is safe to fail, where the new processes and behaviors can be tried and tried again until we get it right.

5. Making the Growth Mindset the norm for your organization, Creating Unity and Ritualby regularly recognizing learning as well as achievement, and hard work as well as numerical success.

All organizations seek to grow, in terms of their financial success or their capabilities in the marketplace. Instilling a Growth Mindset at the individual level will energize the organization and support all types of growth.

Philip Croome

Philip has more than twenty years of consulting experience, focusing on improving processes to drive improvements in cost and cash flow performance.  His industry experience includes energy (upstream, oilfield services, offshore drilling, and pipelines), as well as industrial services, technology, professional and healthcare services.