For the second week family obligations have interrupted by writing.  We are featuring a repost of the conclusion of Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  I am still working with shortlists (chapter 2 has helped my implementation approach but meetings (part of the busyness fallacy discussed in Chapter 2) is making using panorama cues and session difficult after 9  or 10 am every workday. We will be back with new content next week with two articles on prioritization and Chapter 2 of Monotasking on Saturday.

Mindset Re-Read Wrap-up


Mindset Book Cover

Next week we will begin our read of Holacracy.  Buy a copy today and read along!  In preparation I suggest listening to the interview with Jeff Dalton on Software Process and Measurement Cast 433, Jeff has practical experience with using the concepts of holacracy in his company and as a tool in his consultancy.  Today we wrap up our re-read of Mindsets.  If you have not read the book or have not read each of our installments please use the links at the bottom of this entry and enjoy. (more…)

Mindset Book Cover

We are quickly closing in on the end of our re-read of Mindset.  I anticipate two more weeks (Chapter 8 and a round up).  The next book in the series will be Holacracy.  After my recent interview with Jeff Dalton on Software Process and Measurement Cast 433, I realized that I had only read extracts from Holacracy by Brian J. Robertson, therefore we will read (first time for me).

Today, we review Chapter 7 in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (buy your copy and read along).  Chapter 7, titled “Parents, Teachers, Coaches: Where Do Mindsets Come From? explores the impact of some of the most intimate and earliest relationships on our mindsets.Understanding how parents, teachers, and coaches affect mindsets helps us learn to lead change. (more…)

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 (more…)

Mindset Book Cover

Today we are lead into Chapter 5 in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (buy your copy and read along).  In Chapter 5,  we explore the impact of mindsets in the business environment.  The impact of mindsets can be seen in positive and negative business outcomes.  Dweck begins this section with a focus on the negative impact of the fixed mindset at the C level in business. (more…)

Mindset Book Cover

Today we rush into Chapter 4 in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (buy your copy and read along).  In Chapter 4, Dweck hits a home run by reflecting on how mindsets translate into action in the sports arena (thus the sports allusions).  Sports stories are one the most used metaphors in a business environment.  I bet that you can’t you to go to two meetings in any corporate environment without hearing a project likened to the exploits of sports teams or athletes. This an easy metaphor theme because most everyone has been exposed to some form of sports or at least a story about sports before they take a job. In Chapter 4, Dr. Dweck, scores (I can’t help myself) by using the exploits of athletes and sports teams to further illustrate the differences and impact mindsets deliver. (more…)

Mindset Book Cover

Today we tackle Chapter 3 in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (buy your copy and read along). In Chapter 3 Dweck provides a view into how different mindsets impacts how we learn and teach school and other learning scenarios.  The impact of mindsets can be wide and long lasting.

I have looked at a lot of resumes and talked to a lot of job applicants over my career and as a consultant, the tables are often turned on me in most sales calls. In these intimate dances, both parties are assessing the others abilities and accomplishments. During this assessment, we are making judgments of whether someone (or some organization) can satisfy our needs now and often whether they can grow to meet future needs. Perceptions about abilities and accomplishments color our thinking and our actions in many situations and in many ways.

Dweck opens the chapter with a discussion of how the two mindsets affect teachers and students in schools. Conceiving of a school setting might be difficult for a business person, therefore it would be easy to write off this chapter as not relevant. It is relevant, first as leaders we need to understand the long-term effect mindsets have on the people that are in our organization and secondly, the impact of mindsets can have on training and education that is delivered inside the organization. If you go no further and don’t read the chapter, the punchline in this chapter can be summarized as, people with fixed mindset will find excuses and rationalize any perceived failures while those with a growth mindset will tend to double-down and work harder as work gets more difficult.

As we have seen in other scenarios described in earlier chapters in Mindset, those with a fixed mindset spend a lot of time and effort in order to protect their ego and to avoid the perception of failure. The need to spend time on ego protection saps time and focus from all other endeavors. As another example, Dweck describes the impact of different mindsets on how individuals study. A person with a fixed mindset will tend to read and re-read their notes and the assigned course reading. A fairly classic approach to studying (I have used this method myself). Alternately, someone with a growth mindset will reformulate notes, look for themes in the material and leverage outside. Personally, reflecting on my studying performance, I used both methods on different topics, the difference being interest and passion. Dweck suggests that the difference is that the person with a growing mindset synthesizes the information so they can use it outside of the classroom rather than to take the test. Reflect on the people you talked to the last time you were in school or other form of educational environment which included a test. Can you remember hearing people complaining after a test that the question(s) asked weren’t exactly what the teacher or professor talked about in class?  I can and that is often a marker for a fixed mindset.

Dweck uses several other scenarios set in academic settings in the chapter to illuminate the central premise that people with a fixed mindset focus on protecting their ego while those with a growth mindset focus on learning and new challenges which improve motivation (and value to the organization).

The explicit, very bipolar, view of mindsets must be tempered with the understanding that everyone can change. Much of the chapter’s examples present how the student/teacher relationship influences whether a growth or fixed mindset is adopted.  One example presented by Dweck that resonated with me was that teachers who preached a growth mindset got different outcomes in the classroom. Children that started in the lower performance groups ended up in the higher groups by the end of the year. Expectations help frame how we treat people. Early in my eldest daughter’s scholastic career my wife and I changed her school because there was no expectation from some teachers that they needed to challenge her (it did not help that one teacher taught that dinosaurs and cavemen lived at the same time – in science class).  Expectations also work in the in the business environment (consider listening to the interview with David Marquet, author of Turn the Ship Around! On SPaMCAST xxx and xxx for more examples).

Expectations, effort, and struggle are key to growing capabilities and reflect a growth mindset. Giving up because something does not come naturally because you are not a prodigy, is a sign of a fixed mindset.

Expectations and the feedback generated by those expectations can be a double-edged sword. Praise for ability tends to foster more of the need for ego protection while expectations and praise for effort tend to elicit more effort (this supports the idea that mindsets can evolve). Dweck points out a study that found that when praise centered on ability nearly 40% lied about their results.

In this chapter, Dweck uses school and other learning examples. A growth mindset allows people to develop their minds fully versus a fixed mindset which is bound by the boundaries that they adopt. The chapter culminates with a set of questions to grow your mindset. For example, one question is, “Are there situations where you get stupid — where you disengage your intelligence?” The exercise is to consider those scenarios and think about how you can learn and improvement.

Chapter 3 – From a Coach’s Perspective

Transforming an organization (whatever size) requires growth. During an Agile transformation, people often need change how they work and interact with others around them.  This kind of a change can require people expand their capabilities, in the vernacular of the book, to shift mindsets. Instead of address individuals, a transformation coach often needs to focus on shifting the bias of the organization towards a growth mindset. Shifting the organization’s mindset bias towards growth will help to erode negative stereotypes and labels which will slow change.

Transforming a team can be approached more intimately. The coach and other leaders can create an environment and set expectations to reframe how people are treated. Setting and reinforcing a growth mindset will erode the silos that keep individuals from growing. Over the years as a leader, I have recognized that almost everyone has the ability to grow when given the chance. Coach have to help shape the environment and the language being used to in order to erase boundaries that limit achievement.

Previous Entries of the re-read of Mindset:


Mindset Book Cover

Today we tackle Chapter 2 in Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (buy your copy and read along). In Chapter 2 Dweck provides a deeper dive into fixed and growth mindsets.  The chapter begins with Dweck’s relating how the discovery that there were two meanings to the word ‘ability’ shaped the work.  The first definition for ability is a fixed capability that needs to be proven (continually); the second definition is that an ability is a capability that can be developed through learning. The distinction between two definitions are at the heart of the behavioral differences between the growth and fixed mindsets.  Those that believe that abilities can be developed will seek stretch goals and view failures as a learning opportunities, while those with a fixed mindset will have a very different point of view. (more…)

A sharp saw cuts faster and cleaner.

A sharp saw cuts faster and cleaner.

Motivational Sunday

The final habit in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is Sharpening the Saw.  This is a reminder that who and where we are today can’t be who or where we are tomorrow. This habit is a prescription for balanced self-renewal.  The balance is based on a four-category model that is integrated into the previous six habits. The four categories are:

  1. Physical: This category reflects the need to care for the machine; the body, with exercise and diet. Our bodies provide endurance, flexibility, and strength, which enable us to grow.  It is easy to see that struggles with health will make it difficult to concentrate on intellectual growth.
  2. Spiritual: Covey states that, “If your motives are wrong nothing can be right.” The spiritual category reflects our commitment to our own value system.  Our values provide leadership to our lives.  Grounding our values in the habits of proactivity, beginning with the end in mind, and putting first things first helps us to focus on providing service to our community.
  3. Mental: Continuous education and renewal of skills is critical for personal growth. This category includes exploring new topics, debating, and writing critically. Development needs to include a broad approach with hands-on training rather than the more common corporate training. This broad approach should challenge those involved to examine and question underlying assumptions.  An example of how this approach can be implemented is reflected in the Kanban, which requires making policies explicit so they can be challenged.  Mental renewal provides the tools so that we can rise to a challenge when the challenge comes.  This category is also a reminder that when a challenge comes, it is usually too late to re-tool.
  4. Social / emotional: The final category of a balanced renewal is social / emotional.  We are deeply influenced by our relationships, which help write the scripts for how we interact and relate to the world around us.  In the end, integrity to our values is an important attribute of how others view us and is the most important attribute of how we view our selves (assuming some level of introversion).  This category also speaks to providing service to others, which we see as a central tenant of agile leadership (servant leader).

Renewal requires us to pay attention to all four categories.  Ignoring any one category will negatively impact progress on others.  For example, without our health it is difficult to provide service to others or continually re-tool.  In the final habit Stephen Covey advises his readers to continually improve.  Covey caps this habit with a model of growth as an upward spiral of learning, committing, and doing.  This model is reminiscent of the Shewart Cycle (also known as the Deming Wheel) of plan, do, check, and act.  Regardless of the model, continuous improvement requires a cycle that is repeated forever and ever.

4-5 2013 Society National Bank

Once upon a time I worked for Society National Bank. Following a merger in 1993, it became Key Bank. Other than a historical marker, Society is no more and while Key Bank might be a bigger, better bank another take over might not quite as good for both parities.  In this case, longevity did not provide immunization against a wave of bank mergers.  Many things might have provided that immunization:


Whether a company or programmer you can’t assume that longevity is your ticket to a career.  The same attributes that could have lead Society into the 21st century are the same attributes that will lead you to the future.