There is a paradox at the heart of achieving excellence. Many individuals and organizations prioritize performance and achieving high standards, which is undoubtedly important. However, an exclusive focus on performance can lead to a fixed mindset, where individuals become risk-averse and reluctant to step out of their comfort zone. According to Eduardo Briceño in his book “The Performance Paradox”, the way out is to develop a growth mindset to embrace change, persevere through setbacks, and see failure as an opportunity for growth.
The truth is that we cannot achieve sustainable performance without balancing results with a culture of learning and growth. This is the only recipe for long-term excellence.
At the core of a growth mindset is a belief in developing capabilities through effort, learning, and persistence. This is closely tied to the development of self-awareness, which we can use as a starting point.
Self-awareness, as defined by Dr. Tasha Ulrich, is “the ability to see ourselves clearly— to understand who we are, how others see us, and how we fit into the world”.
Many of us have blind spots—areas where our self-perception does not match how others perceive us—and hidden areas that are known to ourselves but not to others. The former are important because they can prevent us from discovering what the triggers are that push us into a fixed mindset.
Many times, it can be difficult to recognize when we become defensive or discouraged in the face of failure or criticism unless others tell us.
That’s why it’s important to ask for feedback and accept some discomfort on the path to skill development. We need to ask the people around us to challenge our perspective. They can provide valuable insights into how we behave, how we operate, and what our impact is.
Feedback is a chance to learn
One of the key differences between fixed and growth mindsets is how they respond to feedback. Many people become defensive or resentful when they receive feedback, missing a great opportunity to learn.
Most of the time, we are not even aware of how defensive we have become. It’s important to know that everyone builds their own narrative, which can be either accurate or distorted. A story we tell ourselves to explain who we are, what is important, our values, our beliefs and our expectations. Accepting feedback can sometimes mean shifting the ground beneath our feet, because it gives us a different perspective on essential pillars of our identity.
Cultivating a growth narrative means accepting that we are a work in progress with the potential for continuous improvement and learning.
Lower the defensiveness
Not all feedback is helpful. Some feedback may be unfair or biased. But approaching it with an eye toward improvement and seeking a different perspective can help us separate the wheat from the chaff. The secret to learning how to receive feedback is to approach it with a positive intent to learn and to maintain our emotional composure by avoiding making it personal. Reacting emotionally can get in the way of a productive dialog.
After receiving feedback, we should take time to reflect on it, consider whether it’s valid, and consider how it aligns with our values and goals.
This is the only way we can make the most of it.