Encourage employee development with a ‘Growth Mindset’

by Danique Geskus | Sep 27, 2023

Employee development will “fly” when their strengths and talents are harnessed (reinforce what works!) and when both employees and managers exchange their “fixed mindset” for a “growth mindset.

What is a growth mindset?

While employees are certainly also responsible for their own development, managers can coach them in this regard in ongoing dialogues and provide valuable feedback and feedforward. In this regard, it is desirable for managers to possess what is known as a growth mindset.

The growth mindset includes our beliefs about our intelligence, talents and qualities. Managers with this mindset believe that employees’ talents are a starting point and that they can improve and develop with commitment and discipline. They encourage this development and spot any progress more quickly, so they are able to spot the talents in their employees sooner. Leaders with a growth mindset give feedback on the growth process (“how well did you do that!” or “how super that you’re trying again!”) and less feedback that assumes a fixed thing (“how smart are you! or you’re really great at this!”)

Leave the fixed mindset behind!

Managers with a fixed mindset argue that employees are born with a certain intelligence and qualities and that these determine what they can and cannot do. They take less initiative to coach their employees, and when work threatens to go wrong, they pull this work onto their plates. By doing so, they deny employees the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and get it right in the long run.

>”See mistakes as practice and not failure”


Leave the comfort zone

This positive approach regarding development naturally applies to employees as well! Employees with a growth mindset are more likely to choose something new, to leave their comfort zone and go on an adventure, so to speak. ‘Fixed thinkers’ are more likely to choose work that shows they can already do something. For them, making mistakes is not an option, the result counts but not the opportunity to learn something.

“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain”

In George Bernard Shaw’s famous play “Pygmalion,” Professor Henry Higgins had high hopes for the development of Eliza Doolittle, the “flat-talking” flower girl from a disadvantaged neighborhood. ‘I’ll have her speak like a duchess in three months,’ he pronounced. The girl glowed and his bystanders all laughed in their fists. However, after three months, the flower girl had developed into an articulate and articulate young lady who, adorned with a fancy hat, attended the horse races at Ascot.

High expectations as a driver

No doubt you are familiar with the phenomenon of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Henry Higgins had high hopes for the flower girl. The expectation he had of the other is known as the pygmalion effect. In turn, the girl began to believe in herself and tapped into talents, unknown even to herself. An intense belief in herself, her own self expectation, was ultimately the driving force that enabled her to reach the highest noble peaks (the Galatea effect). This example makes it clear that both effects can reinforce each other.

Source: The GREAT conversation book, Jacco van den Berg, 2010.


How can you develop a growth mindset?

1. celebrate success!

Let employees succeed. In this way, learning and development becomes more fun, employees become more engaged and their self-confidence increases. Success creates success.

2. create a risk-free environment

In the book “Mistakes Make Courage,” Remko van der Drift breaks a lance to create a climate in which employees (can) see mistakes as learning moments. In such a work environment, employees have no fear of being judged. They consider themselves lucky to have a (coaching) manager who is happy when they say they don’t know and/or can’t do something and therefore haven’t done something right.

3. Give feedback on the process

It has long been known that giving feedback on the process is more valuable compared to the end result. In doing so, remember that compliments are at least as important as points of improvement!

Want to know more?

Want to learn more about revamping your HR cycle? Also read our blog “The modern HR cycle: tips, examples and everything you need to know!”.

Gratis downloads

Chart low and high performers with objective evaluations

Additional Resource

All resources >

Maandelijkse nieuwsbrief

Aanmelding voor nieuwsbrief voordelen