There’s been a slew of commentators looking at what makes a good employee – personality, attitude, engagement? Whatever you think good looks like for it is plainly not found in first-class degrees, amazing IQ, top-notch coding skills or years of experience. It is claimed that when asked what sets exceptional employees apart business leaders chose “personality”.
Is personality more important than aptitude?
Psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has spent her career studying attitude and performance, and her research shows that attitude is a better predictor of success than IQ. She suggests that a ‘growth’ mindset is the trait most likely to help individuals fulfil potential, thrive and succeed:
“the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
What factors are essential for success?
In the 21st century workplace success is predicated on building effective relationships, collaboration, interaction and communication rather than the traditional top-down hierarchy. It’s about know-how and being able to react to change rather than specialisation. The growth mindset enables the versatility and agility that empower those in volatile business environments to marshal their resources, devising innovative ideas and creative solutions.
What sets the best employees apart is their willingness to adapt, to embrace new ideas; an attitude that is enterprising, resourceful and proactive. This is something you can develop and hone; Dweck says people with a “growth mindset” enjoy challenges, strive to learn, and consistently see potential to develop new skills.
Employers should look for potential rather than purely experience
In essence this is about valuing potential rather than replicating the past. An appetite for learning and exploring is essential in order to think beyond the routine; to envisage potential ways ahead and new perspectives, with an open-minded and positive approach to achieving growth in the long term. In organisational terms this requires what Linda Holbeche refers to as “a culture that values learning, that encourages people to cross boundaries”.
The problem is, of course, that the recession has made organisations risk averse and conservative. In terms of the growth mindset this is a problem because fear of failure is the great enemy of innovation. Without the freedom to experiment we stick with the tried and tested and that doesn’t necessarily serve us well in a globally connected world where we are constantly confronted with challenge, change and ambiguity.
Creativity is incredibly valuable to a business
Boosting organisational creative thinking skills pays dividends in terms of the sourcing of productive solutions rather than quick fixes. Creative thinkers learn to examine problems and consider the complexities of a situation while looking for new and different approaches that may lead to new discoveries and world-beating innovation.
Dweck emphasises that this is not about how smart you are, what makes a difference in performance is hard work, persistence, enthusiasm and effort. So what can organisations do to help their people develop a growth mindset?
This is the 10Eighty approach:
- Check your assumptions – leaders should challenge the standard perspective, keep an open mind and resist the temptation to accept the status quo while willing to consider the options and embrace the possibilities.
- Value diversity – a broad range of perspectives and backgrounds can facilitate innovation approaches and reactions to barriers and challenges.
- Provide training, development and networking opportunities – encourage wide-ranging interaction throughout the organisation, offer work assignments that take individuals out of their usual work environment, let people learn from their colleagues and make knowledge-sharing a reality; these are all ways to help the team broaden their horizons and spark new ideas.