Three Ways to Develop Your Growth Mindset

Female leaderBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

What’s one of the key factors in taking your career to the next level? According to the women speaking at the American Express Women’s Conference last week, that answer is the growth mindset.

Moderated by American Express‘s Kim Goodman, President of Global Business Travel, the panelists included Marissa Campise, Vice President, internet and digital media companies at the venture capital firm Venrock; Maria Contreras-Sweet, Founder of Promerica Bank and first Latina in California state government to hold a cabinet position as Secretary of Business, Transportation, and Housing; and Carolyn Everson, Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook.

As Goodman said, “The growth mindset is really all about courage.” The panelists shared their advice and experience on the meaning of a growth mindset. Here are three ways to develop your own.

  1. Be Open to Big Opportunities
    Everson recalled how she took a new job at Microsoft years ago, and, while she was excited about the opportunity, she realized soon afterward the cultural fit wasn’t right for her. She put that in the back of her mind and focused on doing her best – but then she got a call four months later from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg offering her the chance of a lifetime, a big position at the rapidly growing company. Everson felt uncertain – after all, she’d only been at Microsoft for a few months… and the company’s CEO Steve Ballmer had personally recruited her there.

    But Sandberg shared some of her own wisdom, she continued. “She said her career has been driven by what she called rocketship decisions. She said you can’t plan things – you’ve got to be an optimist.”

    Everson eventually took her up on the offer – after consulting her personal board of directors and being careful not to burn bridges when she left Microsoft. Now, working in a job she loves at a company that she feels is a terrific fit, she emphasized the importance of taking risks to move your career forward.

  2. Focus on Your Purpose
    Maria Contreras-Sweet came to America at the age of five when she emigrated from Mexico with her mother and five siblings. She recalled how her grandmother, who stayed in Mexico, always told her there was a reason they were leaving – that she was meant to go.

    “I use the slogan ‘sí se puede,’ which means ‘yes, you can.’ It creates a sense of empowerment,” she explained. Contreras-Sweet says that empowerment reminds her of her grandmother’s words – that she has a reason, that she has a purpose. That mantra has helped guide her through her career – from when she founded her own consulting-firm, or took the risk to join California’s cabinet, or founded Promerica Bank, a financial services provider of Latino entrepreneurs.

    “And when you create this clarity of purpose and vision for people, people truly follow or work with you – and that was the key to my success,” she said.

  3. Learn from Challenges

    “Nothing really goes according to plan,” Campise began. Just as in the venture world, your schemes may change along the way. “A really hard lesson that I had to learn and continue to learn is that you’re going to mistakes. You need to get up, stay positive, feel inspired, and move forward.”

    Campise explained how, when she was beginning her career, she often didn’t feel comfortable in her own skin. “But then I did do certain things I thought were impossible early on,” she continued. Recognizing and honoring your successes can make it easier to get going again after the times that you stumble.

    “You have to have the mindset that you’re constantly learning. It’s okay. You need to get up off the mat when you fall down and stand proud.”

As Goodman pointed out, the growth mindset is built on courage. Taking risks, focusing on a sense of purpose, and learning from your challenges takes daring. Learning to be bold in the face of opportunity can help you grow your career, and can also help you be more effective in your job.

Indeed, the growth mindset is also an important characteristic of a leader. “As leaders, we’ve got to inspire boldness in other people,” Goodman commented.