Growth Mindset

“He’s a natural,” I said aloud while watching a 13-year-old take a stance, swing at a pitch and hit one over the fence. As the boy made the lap around the bases, and was high fived by his team, I recognized it was more than natural talent. I recalled the afternoons and evenings my father and brother were at the ballfield, even at times shoveling the late spring snow from the diamond. My brother may have seemed like a natural too, but behind his homerun swings were hours of practice.

There are times that I encounter an exceptional leader and think, “She’s a natural.” While this is meant as a compliment of the person’s skill, it undercuts the effort and discipline she has taken to build upon her strengths. Believing that one’s talents and gifts are innate is called “fixed mindset.” This fixed mindset may categorize some individuals as “naturals” and others not, and stir in a person a feeling of inadequacy, a lack of motivation and even questioning of his or her own giftedness. On the flipside, those with a “growth mindset” believe that talents can be developed through practice, input from others and hard work. Those with growth mindsets tend to achieve more as their approach, and not innate ability, can make all the difference. Do you have a growth mindset? Here are just a few questions to ask.

Have I tried something new?
This could be a new sermon style, committee meeting structure, recipe or exercise routine. Those with a growth mindset are more willing to experiment with the unknown and are less fearful of failure because learning and failure is part of the growth process. When was the last time you used the phrase, “What if I/we tried…?”

Who are my influencers?
From books to podcasts, a ministry coach to a mentor, having a growth mindset often means intentionally surrounding yourself with positive influencers so that you are not the smartest person in the room. Ask yourself, “Who is one person that I would like to influence my life and ministry?” Then take action by picking up the phone, attending a conference, reading a book or scheduling a lunch.

Am I open to collaboration?
When solving problems and strategizing, do you recognize other’s insights and input are key to the next step? Having a growth mindset creates a sense of empowerment and commitment among the team and can lead to greater innovation. Design the next team meeting to leverage collaboration rather than reporting out.

Do I celebrate effort?
In what ways do you celebrate the effort and not just the accomplishment? If you wait for the final accomplishment, it could take a long time. On social media, in worship, or through personal notes of gratitude, celebrate effort and create positive momentum along the journey.

Does your church have a growth mindset? Since church culture often reflects the core leadership’s culture, you may be able to discern this answer. There are few “naturals” when it comes to ministry. Just reflect on the ministry of the disciples. Consider the mindset they needed to have to embrace the work of the Holy Spirit, foster the faith and plant new communities. What actions can you and your leadership take to foster a growth mindset?