Let’s be honest: 2020 has been a challenging year. That’s not to say there haven’t been moments of triumph and opportunity, but for many of us our mindsets and perspective have been tested like never before. We’ve been forced to re-think our rhythms, routines, priorities and schedules, all while dealing with a tsunami of change including a global pandemic, racial injustice, economic uncertainty, political divisiveness and everything in between.

With this wide range of issues and pressures, how we show up, behave and react to those around us has become more important than ever. For many of us, our mindset runs in the background, guiding our thoughts, feelings and beliefs much like the operating systems on our computers. Too often we don’t take time to stop, assess and adjust our mindset until we run into a problem or challenge, usually tied to a moment of regret or remorse: snapping at a co-worker, unsuccessfully managing stress, falling behind on priorities or projects—or simply finding ourselves drifting through our days and lives.

Even areas once considered strengths can find themselves under attack and in need of refinement and improvement—maybe even some re-programming. One area we’ve seen leaders and teams struggling with during this season is a shift backward to fixed mindset beliefs rather than a growth mindset.

In her book and research, Dr. Carol Dweck has pioneered this concept of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that ability is a fixed trait and cannot be changed. In other words, we are the way we are. On the other hand, people with growth mindsets believe that ability is malleable and can be developed.

It’s important to note that none of us can permanently embrace one mindset over another (growth vs. fixed). We are all a mixture of both mindsets, and that mixture evolves, grows and shifts over time with experience. And during seasons of uncertainty, pressure and challenge, our mindset can be prone to shift more to the “fixed” side if we let it run unchallenged on auto-pilot in the background.

Here are three areas where that shift can negatively affect our leadership, relationships and results if we aren’t aware and mindful of them.

Effort: With a fixed mindset, we see effort as bad. We shouldn’t have to work hard at the things we’re good and gifted at. With a growth mindset, we see effort as a positive thing. After all, that’s how we get better and improve.

During this season of change, many of us have had to re-think and re-work how we do things. Many of us have had to learn new ways of engaging with our teammates and customers. We’ve had to streamline our processes and businesses to handle new opportunities and challenges—and often it’s taken a new level of effort and focus to be successful.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to work with a group of high-performing salespeople. These teams were some of the best in their industry. But much of their process was built on face-to-face interactions with customers and decision-makers—which was suddenly impossible with new health and safety protocols in place.

People who were used to being very successful in what they did were suddenly forced to learn a whole new way of interacting and developing relationships in a virtual environment. And gaining new skill and competence in this area required new muscles and a new level of effort. Many of the people on the team embraced the challenge with a growth mindset; but some found themselves slipping back into a fixed mindset and struggled with the stress and pressure that accompanied this new level of effort. This difference in mindsets is important for leaders to acknowledge when coaching and developing their people to be successful during this new season.

Motivation: With a fixed mindset, motivation is often about proving your ability, showing others and yourself how good you are at something. With a growth mindset, motivation is about improving your ability, each opportunity a chance to get better.

I’ve found myself struggling with this one recently. As a way to stay active and fuel my competitive spirit a bit, I enjoy playing pickleball in my free time. There was a season this summer, when I would show up with more of a fixed mindset. My competitiveness would go into overdrive, and I focused only on winning and playing up to a certain level or expectation (which never usually ended well).

Once I became aware of this, I intentionally tried to shift my focus to more of a growth mindset—every chance to play was an opportunity to learn, grow and improve my ability. Winning and losing became less important as I re-focused on getting better and learning every time I hit the court. This new framing also allowed me to feel more gratitude about the experience rather than the outcome.

Not coincidentally, when I embraced more of a growth mindset, I enjoyed my time more—and would show up back at home in a better position and with a better attitude to interact and serve my family.

Failure: With a fixed mindset, we see failure as the end of the story, time to give up. With a growth mindset, failure is just part of the story and journey and means it’s time to try again (differently).

I don’t know about you, but many of our clients (myself included) have experienced moments of failure this year (both at work and at home). This definitely hasn’t been a year where everything has gone as planned—and many of us have experienced more challenges, obstacles and failures than in recent memory.

If you find the people you lead (or yourself), shifting toward a fixed mindset around failure, here’s a key phrase to keep in mind: not yet. I haven’t figured it out, not yet anyway. You haven’t been successful, not yet, but I believe you will. This is a great phrase to embrace as a coaching leader to help your people focus on what is possible. Welcoming failure with a growth mindset can propel you and your team forward.

Every couple of months, my iPhone lets me know it has to upgrade its operating system. Whether it’s to fix bugs or add new features and functions, these regular upgrades are required to keep it performing well. Our mindset is similar—we need to step back and perform any necessary upgrades to keep it (and us) running properly. This is especially true during seasons of change and uncertainty—like 2020.

So if you’re looking for ways to keep your mindset operating system up-to-date, focusing on your current balance between a fixed and growth mindset is a great opportunity. If that doesn’t work, you can always try turning it on and off again. (Seriously, don’t underestimate that suggestion.)



Part I: Your Decisions & Influence

In the first of a three-part video series, Daniel Harkavy explores how your decisions and influence affect everything from promotions to gaining and keeping the trust of your team and peers.

Read Video Transcript


I don’t think anyone would argue against the opinion that successful leaders have a leadership mindset. Where the disagreement, or more likely confusion, comes in is around what that actually means. Few words have more varied definitions than “leadership,” and when you add the term “mindset” to the equation, you create something many people vaguely understand and agree in theory is important but would struggle to articulate or make happen.


In Part III, Daniel will show you how to start implementing The 7 Perspectives in your business. You’ll learn how to deploy intentional curiosity and how to find your blind spots.

In Part II of the 7 Perspectives Video Series, Daniel Harkavy unpacks and defines the perspectives, and explains how each one works with the others to help you become an effective leader.

In the first of a three-part video series, Daniel Harkavy explores how your decisions and influence affect everything from promotions to gaining and keeping the trust of your team and peers.

3 Ways to Deal with Change

While the past year may have amplified it, the amount of change and uncertainty surrounding us has been steadily increasing for quite some time now. In fact, as soon as we get comfortable with something, it seems to inevitably change again. One thing we can count on not changing anytime soon is this amount and… Read More

Getting Along With Others [Video]

Learning to walk in someone else’s shoes or seeing things from their perspective can go a long way in generating harmony between people. However, like many things worth doing, it’s often easier said than done. Executive Coach Todd Mosetter shares one simple way to help change what you think and feel about those around you.

Top Five Productivity Myths

With the amount of information, distractions, and change surrounding us today, staying productive and focused is harder than it’s ever been. But for the people and organizations that have been able to figure it out, it has quickly become a competitive advantage. For the rest of us, it seems like a never-ending cycle of success… Read More

How to get things done [Video]

A common question our coaches get is—“How do I move from ‘I want to get this done’ to ‘I got this done?’” Coach Bill Hart walks you through an easy strategy to help you tackle and complete items on your list. It’s so simple and effective that you can start today!

Lessons from a Push-Up Challenge

A couple of years ago, Ken Perry shared a challenge he was undertaking. One push-up a day—add a push-up per day. As a bit of a competitive person at heart, it didn’t take long for me to accept the challenge myself. Sounded simple enough, especially in January. To be honest, it almost felt weird doing just one… Read More

Time to Reflect

Growing up as a TV fan in the ‘80s, I was forced to get comfortable with waiting. When my favorite show ended on Tuesday at 9 p.m. (like this one or this one), we were forced to wait 7 long days to see what happened next to the characters we loved. In that forced hiatus,… Read More