Being open to new ideas, constant lesson-learning, and curiosity make up a learning mind-set. Building a spirit of learning in yourself and others is a lifelong skill with great rewards. As a leader, learning to embrace an approach that encourages you and your team to keep moving down the path of learning, expansion, and growth has positive implications for business outcomes.
Our workplaces are changing rapidly, and a learning mind-set will allow you to maintain a competitive edge as we adapt to shifting environments. Leaders with the right mind-set put practices into place to ensure they grow and help others do the same to perform effectively. Cultivating a learning mind-set is a continuous practice and can be done with attention and effort placed on the following four skills.
1. Build Critical Thinking Skills
We all think, but critical thinking requires a precise combination of observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem-solving, and decision-making. That list demonstrates why thinking at deeper levels is challenging—it demands a great deal from us. With the amount of misinformation or partial truths that exist in our world, building this skill is necessary. Leaders must question assumptions, teachers must build problems-solving competencies, and we all need to consider decision-making methodologies that reduce biases of thought and enhance well-reasoned thinking.
We can build these skills in our business processes by questioning data and looking deeper into cause and effect. Asking questions and evaluating evidence support better conclusions. Additionally, consider the opposing perspective and what it can teach you.
2. Cultivate a Growth Mind-Set
A growth mind-set comes with the belief that failure and challenge result in learning, that feedback is imperative for development, and that trying and practicing new things supports success. Intelligence can be taught, and optimism carries us forward. Without it, we remain stuck in undesirable circumstances. How you view the world matters. We have the power to create our own realities and change them if desired.
Fostering a growth mind-set in your teams requires leaders to place a high value on learning by supporting development. Strong teams capitalize on failures and are open to feedback to improve their behavior, processes, and decision-making.
3. Embrace Multiple Perspectives
Embracing various ways of thinking and bringing forth individual experiences enhance both our decision-making skills and our learning. This includes incorporating multicultural, racial, generational, personality, and gender lenses into our thoughts, beliefs, and judgments. It requires us to value and bring forth the lessons from each of these points of view and merge various experiences and educational backgrounds.
When diversity of thought is championed in the workforce, all aspects of who we are can offer significant contributions to team outcomes and organizational success.
Leaders who are skilled in embracing multiple viewpoints ensure their teams are composed of diverse individuals. They facilitate conversations that allow for different perspectives to emerge, and they incorporate these frames of reference into their decision-making.
4. Reduce Bias
We cannot achieve the benefit of diversity if we fail to recognize and address our own biases. Here are a few types of biases that prevent learning and growth.
- With anchoring bias, we believe the first piece of information we hear, and all other information is judged based on that initial “anchor.” Alternatively, recency bias leads us to rely more heavily on the most recent information in front of us. As leaders, both are risky, as they sometimes prevent them from assessing additional data because of incomplete or erroneous anchors. A learning mind-set allows us to recognize the information and take it into consideration equally with new and historic information.
- Group think occurs when members of a team align their thinking with a popular opinion or the majority opinion. When leaders move too quickly to adopt a decision that seems well-supported, they risk not critically evaluating the alternatives, dangers, and possibilities.
- Confirmation bias describes how we seek to confirm information we already believe to be true, and it’s an unconscious bias that permeates our workplaces and our culture. We witness this bias with COVID-19 information, politics, parenting, and leadership. One of the best strategies to mitigate confirmation bias is to actively seek information that might support an alternative viewpoint. While your initial perspective might be correct, this learning technique forces you to integrate new information in a dynamic way.
- Stereotyping is one of the most common biases, and we are all guilty of holding and perpetuating inaccurate beliefs about others based on gender, race, age, or personality. Breaking stereotype bias requires us to actively seek to understand others and deepen our self-awareness.
Building self-awareness of your biases and actively working to reduce them are critical steps in opening the door for learning. They ensure we objectively see a broad piece of data and information and incorporate it without harmful filters into our decision-making and leadership behaviors.
While the facts might seem irrelevant at the time, the learning mind-set you support in the process will serve you immeasurably as you grow and effectively process new information throughout your career.
As the President and CEO of Innovative Connections, Laurie Cure’s focus is consulting in strategic planning, organizational development, talent management, and leadership, including change management and culture evolution. With more than 25 years of leadership experience, she has dedicated her career to delivering strategic visions, working with executives/senior leaders to drive organizational outcomes, and researching and publishing on important industry issues and topics.
In addition to her book Leading without Fear, which is about overcoming fear in the workplace, she has published on the topic of leadership, coaching, team development, and workplace culture. Connect with her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurie-cure/.