What Really Encourages (and Discourages) Learning

Are you leading in a way that encourages or discourages learning? How open are you (really) to learning?

Mindset by Carol DweckI went to an offsite meeting for WOMEN Unlimited recently and was given a book that was absolutely the right book at the right time for me.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. is not a new release so I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before. It is truly transformational.  And it’s based on research, which I find refreshing. There are a lot of books out there based on upon little more than anecdotes and sound bites but Professor Dweck’s is based on decades of research. Her conclusions provide such clarity, you’ll say “So that’s why…”

In short, her research shows that we develop a mindset that falls somewhere on a continuum from “growth” to “fixed” and the impact that has on our willingness to grow and achieve over the long term is incredible. As a leader, what impact do you think the willingness of your team members to grow has on your organization? On their careers? On you?

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in how you can get out of your own way, and others, and reignite that spark of learning required to achieve long-term success.

To get a taste of what’s in Professor Dweck’s book, here’s a presentation she gave at Stanford:


CWC #11

Do you know who the power players are on your team? You know, the people who always seem to get their way, who make things happen. They are often the “emotional leaders” of the team, regardless of the formal position they hold. Perhaps you’re one of them. If not, and you want to be more effective or  influential in your business, consider getting to know them better.

  • They can be fantastic allies. When you need support for your project, see if you can sell them on the idea first. You may set a wave in motion that can carry you forward. Or, find out they have concerns that could stop the project.  Better to find out and address those concerns early.  
  • They can also be fantastic teachers, even without knowing it. Take a good look at these folks. What do they do that works so well to motivate others, above, below or around them? Maybe there is something you can learn and integrate into your mode of operation. (I call people like this “mentors from afar.”)

Think about it: What power players do you admire and what can you learn from them?

You care = I care

Wow!   I just looked at my site stats and my readership was up in December.  It’s great positive reinforcement – makes me excited to write more.  Don’t you find that you are more motivated to do more when you know people around you are interested in your work, care about it, even rely on it?  What a difference it makes — knowing someone is paying attention.  

My ‘revelation’ is nothing new, of course.   There have been studies over the years showing that the mere presence of an observer affects the way we work, typically by making us more productive.  This is commonly called the Hawthorne effect, so named based on studies of worker productivity in the 1920’s at a factory called Hawthorne Works.  They were actually studying the effect of different types of lighting, but ended up finding that even without changing the variable (light), workers were more productive simply because they were being observed. 

Why?  I think it is because we are inherently social creatures, and when we believe someone cares, it makes us care more.  Think about this in your worklife.  Want more out of your team?  Pay attention to them!  Now, I’m sure there is an upper limit on this.  I don’t know of any studies on how too much attention dampens productivity but I’m sure they exist.  We’ve all heard the term “micromanager” and it doesn’t have a good connotation.  As long as you don’t take it too far, “show up” for your team, and show them you care.  It’ll be good for both of you.