Improving By Not Just Proving

May 14, 2024

Improving By Not Just Proving

In the realm of leadership, overseeing a team often involves observing individuals striving to establish their capabilities both within the team and before their leader. Similarly, leaders might find themselves endeavoring to demonstrate their value not only to their teams but also to their superiors and fellow leaders. Yet the fixation on proving oneself frequently overshadows the more constructive pursuit of personal and collective improvement.

Discerning Mindsets: What Team Members Have Done Versus What They're Doing

One effective means of distinguishing between proving and improving mindsets lies in attentive listening. When team members or colleagues discuss their work, does their discourse encompass both successes and challenges? Do they candidly share their experiences, highlighting what worked well and what fell short? Conversely, is there often a meticulously curated compilation of their achievements?

An additional indicator of mindset is how individuals respond to feedback. When they receive feedback on their performance, those anchored in a proving or fixed mindset tend to become defensive or engage in self-justification. In contrast, those embracing a growth or improvement-oriented mindset tend to receive feedback with openness and a desire for growth.

The inherent desire of team members to validate their competence and accomplishments can inadvertently hinder progress. Recognizing these underlying mindsets, both within teams and within leaders, is pivotal for cultivating a culture of ongoing improvement and advancement.

The "Four Questions for Growth"

A potent method for transitioning from a proving to an improving mindset emerged during discussions with teenage children regarding their recitals, school performances or auditions. The approach, referred to as the "Four Questions for Growth," was subsequently integrated into leadership strategy at work. This approach has since fostered growth, development, and a culture of improvement within teams.

Following any performance—be it a piano recital, a sales call, or any task—these coaching questions have proven transformative:

What was the best thing that happened at the event?

This query resonates with the innate desire to validate and showcase accomplishments.

What obstacles did you encounter while doing this event? 

Soliciting acknowledgement of setbacks, despite the impulse to impress, is key.

What were your realizations from going through this event?

 This question encourages an evaluation beyond surface-level performance.

What changes do you plan to make from these realizations?

The essence of growth resides in making incremental enhancements through newfound knowledge.

Implementing this approach within teams dismantles barriers that often obstruct discussions about performance. Open dialogues encompassed not only achievements but also setbacks and challenges. Individuals proactively sought assistance and collaboration, with the focus shifting from validation to continuous enhancement. By employing these questions within a coaching context, a culture was cultivated that centers on growth and development, propelling teams toward the next level of excellence within both their professional and personal spheres.

In essence, a shift from a proving mindset to an improving mindset ignites the spark of continuous advancement. By integrating the "Four Questions for Growth" into the leadership arsenal, a dynamic atmosphere of ongoing improvement can be fostered, enriching both the professional journey and that of the team.