illustration of a brain within lightbulb on top of the word growth which fills the screen representing a growth mindset

Establishing organisational behaviours that promote growth mindsets

We’ve seen much written about the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset. While a fixed mindset believes your abilities are unchangeable and intrinsic, a growth mindset says they evolve and change through focus and hard work.

However, it isn’t well known that our capabilities — the ability to make decisions, be creative and solve problems — can change according to the social dynamics of our day-to-day environment. As humans, we’re highly social creatures.

Leadership can foster behaviours and cultures that either enhance or degrade the workforce’s overall ability.

Dominant personalities can undermine others’ potential
I didn’t recognise it at the time, but when I was 17, I experienced it firsthand while visiting my sister at university. Her friend was extremely funny and charismatic, but I couldn’t get a word in edgeways.

I also felt less confident because of his clear dominance of the social situation. When I did speak, I didn’t feel at all myself. I felt unfunny. Uninteresting. This was a vicious circle — I became an audience member of his performance.

Over 16 years as a management consultant, I’ve noticed this dynamic time and again. Confident extroverts with domineering personalities often crowd out the talent around them. No matter how brilliant the individual is (and they often aren’t), there’s no way their brilliance can compensate for the loss of those they diminish.

When meetings don’t work
In meetings, this dynamic really comes through. In any given meeting one individual can take up 70-80% of the airtime. It’s easy to see how blocking other people from speaking limits the ability of teams to collaborate.

Still, the problem goes deeper in a much more pernicious way. The dominant voice tends to crowd out others’ voices and thoughts. People find it hard to both listen to someone and form their own ideas. And it gets worse.

When both your voice and thoughts are suppressed, you lose confidence. Consequently, your capabilities decline. You become less decisive, cogent, and creative. Over time and across many interactions, your sense of your own ability and relevance starts to shift.

This is what disempowerment does. Empowered people rise to the challenge. They up their game. Disempowered people, who lack a voice and the space to think experience the opposite.

Rather than recognise the damage, domineering people observe the performance drop from those they are crowding-out and feel the need to take charge even more to pick up the slack. 

I’ve watched incredibly senior, confident, and capable people fall victim to this in just a 30-minute meeting. It’s terrifying and takes time to recover from. At the organisational level, we need to fix behaviours that hurt workforce productivity and collaboration — starting with meeting practice.

Rob Hopkin
CEO & Co-Founder at Axis

Revolutionising how we run meetings with Axis
An average organisation spends 15% of collective time and over 40% of management time in meetings. It's the main social activity of the day for many people. In meeting, domineering behaviour happens day-in-day-out. Let’s rethink how we run meetings.

Redesign collaborative sessions to create a virtuous cycle where:

  • Every voice is heard.
  • Everyone has time and space to think.
  • Contributions and impact are visible building people’s confidence.
  • Participating in a group creates purpose and increased self-worth. 

That’s Axis’s collaboration framework. We’d be delighted for you to see:
1) how it works in practice and 2) how your organisation can use it effectively.

Get started with Axis for free today!

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