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It is key for leaders to be aware of the impact of their language on individual mindsets and workplace culture. It’s both rewarding and incredibly useful in a workplace context to understand how mindset impacts how your teams respond to challenges. Keep reading to better understand why some people love to push themselves, whilst others hide and make excuses. Then take the first steps towards developing a growth mindset in your teams.


Carol Dweck developed the theories laid out in her book, Mindset by studying people who succeeded or struggled in their fields. She noticed two patterns of attitude towards learning and challenge: 

Growth Mindset – believing that intelligence / skills are flexible and can be improved with effort.

Your people with a growth mindset will:

Fixed Mindset – believing that intelligence / skills are fixed. You either have them or you don’t.

Your people with a fixed mindset may:

People who are more resilient generally have a growth mindset as they are encouraged to learn from setbacks and keep putting in effort. Conversely, fixed mindset people may give up easily, believing that more effort is pointless.


Presenting people with an open-ended choice of challenges can sometimes reveal their mindset patterns. This may be puzzles, mazes, mathematical sums or other creative activities. When given the choice people with more of a fixed mindset may pick the easiest activity so that there is no chance of failure or so that they can complete it quickly. People who have more of a growth mindset may try to push themselves, looking for a challenge. This is not always the case. Some people admit they like to warm up with an easier task before challenging themselves, or feel they want to accomplish things “in order”. You can spark an interesting reflective discussion by exploring how people approached the choice and what it might reveal about their mindset.


The simple answer is yes – but reinforcing a growth mindset is a lot easier when the ground work has already been covered. Much of people’s mindset comes from the messages they received as children from their parents, teachers and other role models. If people have been exposed to fixed mindset ideas then it will take time to un-learn these patterns.

Our choice of language when we interact with others is fundamental; always having deeper meaning and implications. Dweck’s Mindset presents a range of commonly heard phrases in teaching, sport, parenting and dinner conversation – and demonstrates how these might impact mindset. We are also offered guidance on how to use language to support growth.

Fixed mindset language reinforces “smartness”, getting it right, doing something quickly, “beating” others or achieving outcomes first time.

Growth mindset language praises effort, patience, trying new things, learning from experience, overcoming challenges and persistence.


Simple phrases such as “You got full marks, how clever.” Have been shown to have a substantial impact on people’s mindset about learning. This phrase implies that not getting full marks wouldn’t be clever, that any less could be a failure or disappointing. Furthermore, if someone else had tried really hard, but got half marks and heard this comment, it might de-value their effort.

Try switching it to something like:

Both of these phrases focus much less on praising the final result, and instead emphasises their growth through the process of learning; encouraging effort, challenge and development over time – rather than a flawless performance.

Praising attainment rather than process can discourage risk taking and growth which can stifle individuals and lead to stagnation in team performance. Rewarding the process, effort and experimentation your people put in will lead to more innovation. There’s also something to be said about having genuine open, constructive feedback within teams and encouraging self-evaluation.

Think about the language you use to talk to yourself and others. Are there fixed phrases that you could swap for growth ones?

To inspire a team of powerful self leaders in the workplace, it’s important to tackle thought processes, learning behaviours and people’s reactions to challenge. You can do this more effectively through the learnings from Carol Dweck’s Mindset. Through anecdotes and examples, you’ll get a clearer insight into how mindsets impact decision making and behaviour in the workplace – and beyond.

Buy Mindset as a paperback or an ebook

Continue this journey today and take bold steps towards a more empowered team of self leaders. Book a call with The Self Leadership to discuss programme and training options for your team – it’s time for you to enjoy an inspired and empowered team.