Here at DirectorPrep, we create practical tools for board directors who choose a growth mindset. That means we want to collaborate with directors, like you, who choose to believe they can develop their abilities, brains, and talent every time they read their board papers, take a course, read an article, or engage in a discussion with fellow board members about a current dilemma or opportunity.
As directors, when we choose to see if there’s something we can learn today, it’s an intentional decision, even if we don’t realize it at the time. That’s because we’ve made curiosity a savvy director habit – one that anyone can achieve if they make the choice to do so. That’s what continuous improvement as a director is all about.
Dr. Carol Dweck brought the growth mindset language into our contemporary lexicon worldwide with her seminal work, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” in which she illuminates how our belief about our own capabilities exerts tremendous influence on how we learn and which paths we take in life. She describes two main ways people think about intelligence or ability. They have either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
According to Dr. Dweck, “It’s not easy to attain a growth mindset because we all have our fixed-mindset triggers.” To stay in the growth zone in our work as directors, we must identify and work with these triggers.
Think of a boardroom situation that may not have gone the way you thought it should. When we face challenges, are criticized, or fare poorly compared to others, we tend to become insecure or defensive, which inhibits growth.
We can benefit from learning to recognize when our fixed mindset ‘persona’ shows up and makes us feel threatened or defensive. We can learn to choose to transition our fear into collaboration with ourselves as we prepare for challenging discussion in the board room.
Abraham Maslow, the guru psychologist who’s most famous for the Hierarchy of Needs, wrote indirectly about the growth mindset and the need to constantly battle fear in the effort to grow.
“One can choose to go back towards safety or forward towards growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” – Abraham Maslow
The premise of today’s blog is to suggest that board directors are challenged to choose growth over fear every time a new and unfamiliar topic emerges, topics that require them to acquire information and pursue learning opportunities – topics like climate change, ESG, sustainability, and now – artificial intelligence (AI).
As directors, we have to decide – individually and collectively – whether we’ll embrace the opportunity to learn it all with a growth mindset or choose to be a know it all with a fixed worldview.
AI poses a huge question for how board directors will embrace professional development to provide effective oversight, leadership, and support for management.
Feeling uncertain, or hesitant to express your uneasiness about not knowing what you don’t know, is normal and healthy. A better situation is to get it on the board agenda for discussion. You can be sure you’re not the only one wondering about it.
We’ve written previously in this space about creating an initial AI workplan for the board. Since then, new questions have emerged about the human aspects of board oversight of artificial intelligence. Questions like:
Was that so hard? All of these straightforward questions come from one of the resource articles at the end of today’s blog. By checking out resources like these and doing your own research, you’re making the commitment to learn, grow, and develop your critical thinking skills.
The best directors don’t rely solely on the information that management provides. After all, members of the executive team are somewhere on their own learning curve, and they have their own hesitancies, biases, and subconscious assumptions. As a savvy director, think about where you can add value to the discussion by doing some extra reading or conducting your own research, beyond what’s in your board package. That’s one way choosing a growth mindset can benefit others.
My question is this:
Are you ready to ignite your curiosity to dig into today’s challenging topics as they come forward? Or is it time for your board to include a new generation of directors to create the culture of inquiry needed to get this important work done?
If you’re ready to engage, you’ll have to choose growth – again and again. Your board needs your unique skills to make it happen.
In the article 4 Ways to Feed a Growth Mindset, Sanjiv Yajnik, President of Financial Services at Capital One, lists four ways to feed a growth mindset in the workplace. They could just as easily apply to directors and their board work.
With a growth mindset, you know that you’re able to change over time, so you’re more open to reflect, learn, and grow from challenges. That makes potential failure less threatening, so you’re willing to embrace the board’s challenges, view feedback as a learning opportunity, and continue to learn and grow throughout your board career.
Directors with a growth mindset have a passion for learning, innate curiosity, highly honed analytical reasoning skills, and a strong achievement drive that will spur them to action.
“People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence and creativity, as well as things like love and friendship, can be grown and cultivated with practice and time. They are less likely to be discouraged by failure because they reframe challenges as learning opportunities. This allows them to feel happy and content.” – Dr. Carol Dweck
If you view your intelligence and talents as attributes you can develop as a board director, you have a growth mindset. As such, you’re likely to approach board meeting issues with positivity and enthusiasm. This basic way of seeing yourself can dramatically affect how you tackle challenges, handle failure, and progress through your time on the board.
A learning organization led by a learning board with learning directors and a learning management team, can create a culture of inquiry. In my view, that’s a collective growth mindset in action.
You’ve got this!
Scott Baldwin is a certified corporate director (ICD.D) and co-founder of DirectorPrep.com – an online membership with practical tools for board directors who choose a growth mindset.
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