How to Foster a Growth Mindset During Stressful Times

There is a quote from Zig Ziglar that says your attitude determines your altitude. The saying encourages those who hear it to develop a growth mindset, seeing challenges as opportunities. Instead of viewing setbacks and less than ideal circumstances as signs that it’s time to throw in the towel, teams with a growth mindset forge ahead. They keep trying until they find a solution, viewing each successful attempt as part of the learning process.

Adopting a growth mindset can lead to high performance, even in tough economic times. When sales drop and customers seem more nervous, your team can take it personally. But this can lead to what is known as a fixed mindset, where individuals give up easily and ignore insightful feedback. This is the opposite of what you want for your team and your business. Here’s how to foster a growth mindset in your employees during tough times.

Tell the truth

Fostering a growth mindset doesn’t mean watering down the facts. When consumers spend less, it impacts almost every business in one way or another. If you are a telecommunications company, you may have seen an increase in new customers during the pandemic. They needed reliable ways to stay connected from home, including high-speed internet. But now your business is on the decline as customers seek to consolidate and minimize household expenses.

Regardless of how the economy influences your company’s sales volume, be honest about it. Set realistic expectations with your team regarding sales forecasts. Let them know that you anticipate the ups and downs. The good times may be over now, but they can and will come back. Also, weaker sales do not mean that there will be no gains at all.

Polls show that people tend to spend their money differently during a recession. Essentials, such as rent and groceries, become higher priorities. Consumers might be less willing to shell out their wages for something frivolous. But sometimes they treat themselves to a movie or a new outfit. These are the opportunities that your team should always consider as opportunities to do business and retain future customers.

Plan for setbacks

Remember how a growth mindset sees challenges as opportunities instead of an indication that it’s time to quit? Well, leaders who want their teams to see obstacles as opportunities plan for them. They realize that there will be setbacks regardless of how the economy performs. Whether the market is at its peak or rapidly declining, obstacles are a part of business life.

Preparing for the unexpected is wise, but so is anticipating the setbacks most likely to occur. Describing weaknesses in your operations and approaches can become a lesson in how to improve. There may be gaps in your lead generation strategies. They are not as obvious when the economy is booming, but they become stumbling blocks when the outlook is dim.

Knowing that these obstacles will appear during difficult times is a chance to task the team with a problem-solving project. Bring them together to share information about what they hear from customers and prospects about the company’s approach. There might be a “Holy shit!” idea in there somewhere. Ask the group to try out their ideas, framing them as experiments to find out what works. It’s okay if something doesn’t work as long as they persist in finding what works.

Create a safe learning environment

Employees are less likely to listen to feedback when they don’t feel management cares about their well-being. While managers often need to strike an appropriate balance between positive reinforcement and constructive criticism, staff members need to feel it’s okay to make mistakes. Employees also need to feel that leaders welcome their ideas.

Asking direct reports for their input is a good thing, but not if you’re just paying them lip service. If only the leaders’ ideas are implemented, the employees will stop talking. They will understand that they are only there to take orders and believe that they must turn from their mistakes to survive. Staff members may also feel that leadership does not value customer experiences, leading to disengagement and burnout.

Gallup research shows that only one in five employees strongly agree that leaders make decisions in the best interests of their customers. Those who do are four times more likely to be proud of their organization’s products and services. Staff become more invested in exceeding customer expectations when they feel leadership truly cares. When customer needs change in a tough economy, leadership empathy can determine whether employees follow orders or innovate.

Developing growth mindsets in difficult times

People with a growth mindset don’t see challenges as threats. They see obstacles as a chance to discover something new or solve an ongoing problem. Economic uncertainty is one of the many hurdles businesses face. However, it can cause employees to give in to feelings of anxiety and defeat.

Leaders who foster a growth mindset during cutbacks teach their teams to learn from what’s going on. They are transparent, strategic and supportive. It is not a question of succeeding as soon as possible. It’s about trusting the process and acknowledging what the team knows today that they didn’t know yesterday will enable them to be successful tomorrow.

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