Mindset Book Cover
Today we review Chapter 6 in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (buy your copy and read along).  In Chapter 6, we explore the impact of mindsets on relationships.  While this chapter is focused primarily on personal relationships, we can also use the ideas in this chapter to hone relationships within teams and the broader business environment. We can see differences in how in our mindset affects how we deal with the ups and downs of relationships. While the trials and tribulations of more intimate relationships are important, our re-read will ultimately focus on how our knowledge of mindsets can be used in transformations and coaching.

A fixed mindset believes that performance stems from a set of fixed attributes.  Rejection is seen as a reflection of a personal flaw which sets a label (e.g. failure).  When those with a fixed mindset perceive they have a negative label, they will tend to lash out at those around them.  Because they are protecting their ego those with a fixed mindset begin plotting revenge in an attempt to repair their ego. People with a growth mindset will use the ups and downs of relationships as a feedback mechanism. When slights occur they will tend to forgive and move on.

All relationships are a complicated set of interrelated systems.  Making and maintaining relationships takes work. However as we have seen in previous chapters, those with a fixed mindset believe what does not come naturally has little value.  This perception causes those with a fixed mindset to abandon relationships that require work to establish or maintain.  

Another common issue in relationships where one or more partner has a fixed mindset is that assumption that both (or all for different groupings) are of one mind.  This assumption suppresses communication, putting further stress on the relationship and letting individuals ascribe motives to actions and comments that might not be true.

An exercise suggested by Dweck to determine which mindset are being held in relationships is to ask each party the following questions: As a husband, I have the right to ______ and my wife has the duty to _____.  Using a development team as a model – As a developer, I have the right ______ and the tester has the duty to ____.  Switch the role order depending on the primary role being played.  Asking the exercise participants to answer the question will help participants to explain how they anticipate the obligations of a relationship being distributed.  In the process, the words in the stories that are generated will help to expose the mindsets of the particants, which is useful promoting awareness within the relationship.

As we have noted in earlier chapters, problems indicate character flaws to people with a fixed mindset.  At one point in my life, I actually walked away from a friendship when I noticed that someone heavily salted their buttered bread and stopped dating a girl when she put ketchup on a filet.  I believe I have changed, but at the time I saw those problems as insurmountable character flaws.  Rather than discuss the situation (and show a bit more tolerance), I choose to bail out.  These sorts of issues happen in teams everyday reducing team effectiveness.  Remember to confront the situation, not the person.  

In relationships, people with a fixed mindset see others as adversaries to be competed with.  The parties in a relationship that include people with fixed mindsets will often have significantly different power levels (one powerful and the other more submissive).  When those with a fixed mindset see the flaws in their partners they will tend to exploit those flaws to improve their ego and when slighted will seek revenge.  

Organizational Transformation:  Remember that bullying and revenge are influenced by fixed mindsets.  Change can be threatening to people with a fixed mindset. They see change as an attack on their character; threatening their success.  This can be exacerbated if the roll out is done via brute force (bullying) which can generate negative reactions. such as revenge or passive aggressive behavior in the workplace.  As a transformation leader, it is imperative to understand that change can be viewed as a rejection of closely held personal beliefs.  When talking about or leading change separate how you talk about people from how you talk about the roles you are changing.

Team Coaching: Software development has been described as a team sport.  Teams are a reflection of the relationships between team members.  Mindsets can directly affect how team members view each other.  While the chapter focuses on primarily on individual relationships, we can see many of the same patterns in the relationships between team members.  Stress causes individuals with fixed mindsets to focus on the personal faults of others creating distance or even going as far as to ascribe blame to fellow team members.  Coaches have to help teams to separate people from roles and help team members not to blame people, but rather to focus on how to resolve situations and improve outcomes.

Previous Entries of the re-read of Mindset:
Basics and Introduction
Chapter 1: Mindsets
Chapter 2: Inside the Mindsets
Chapter 3: The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment
Chapter 4: Sports: The Mindset of a Champion
Chapter 5: Business: Mindset and Leadership

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