What is the one trait of every successful recruiter? They have the right mindset! While it may sound like a pretty fundamental attribute to look for, most recruiting leaders fall into the trap of hiring high performers because of what they can bring to the business. This can bring trouble to your team and change efforts if the high performer has the wrong mindset.
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck was curious why some people in life thrive while others flounder. As she studied the motivation for success and achievement for over four decades, she discovered a significant distinction between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
Those who operate in a fixed mindset tend to believe they are either born with talent, or they’re not. It is a binary view of nature versus a nurture approach to success. Typically, they will view intelligence as a fixed trait and believe inborn talent determines success. Individuals with a fixed mindset seek to validate themselves and will oppose data contrary to their core beliefs.
Because they believe their intelligence and abilities are what they are, they invest their energy in looking smart instead of learning and developing. They will attempt new hobbies or learn new behaviors, but their tolerance for failure is much lower. As a result, they tend to avoid challenges for fear of being judged as a failure if they cannot excel in a short timeframe. They often exhibit primal responses to constructive feedback because of their inability to accept failure.
Abraham Maslow called it “aborted self-actualization.” He wrote in The Farther Reaches of Human nature:
If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.
The opposing mindset is called the growth mindset. Those with this mindset believe they can develop any ability through dedication and hard work. This core belief drives them to be continuous learners and has a natural curiosity about the world. They tend to embrace challenges and persevere when setbacks invariably arise during the learning process. This group will view effort as an essential ingredient on the path to mastery. When they view team members or others succeeding on their path to mastery, they use it as inspiration, often seeking advice from such individuals as a way to continue their growth journey.
Dweck offers a self-test in her Mindset book. Take a moment to read each of the following statements and decide whether you mostly agree or disagree:
- Your intelligence is something fundamental about you that you can’t change very much.
- You can learn new things, but you can’t change how intelligent you are.
- No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit.
- You can always substantially change how intelligent you are.
Questions 1 and 2 reflect a fixed-mindset—questions 3 and 4 point to a growth mindset.
Here’s an example from PositivePsychology.com on the difference between the fixed and growth mindset:
Running late and missing the bus or carpool.
You’ve certainly been here before: your alarm doesn’t go off (or maybe you hit snooze a few too many times), and you oversleep. You jump out of bed and race into your clothes, skipping any part of your morning ritual that isn’t completely necessary before racing outside to catch the bus. As you run to the street, you see the bus pulling away, and you know you’re going to be late.
For someone with a fixed mindset, this scenario might ruin their whole day. They may feel angry with themselves or look for someone or something else to blame.
On the other hand, someone with a growth mindset is more likely to think about the root cause of the mess they’re in and consider how to avoid it next time. They may conclude that they need to go to bed earlier tonight or set their alarm a little bit louder. The point is, the person with a growth mindset will think about ways to fix the problem because they believe it is fixable.
Understanding these mindsets will be vital as you facilitate the change in your organization, especially during these trying times in our industry. You may have to shift your mindset before attempting to change that of your team or client. Perhaps you’ve already identified those on your team who have the fixed mindset and will need some extra coaching to embrace a new way of recruiting. According to Psychology Today, there are eight general approaches for developing the foundation for such a mindset:
- Create a new compelling belief: a belief in yourself, in your skills and abilities, and your capacity for positive change.
- View failure in a different light: see failure as an opportunity to learn from your experiences and apply what you have learned next time.
- Cultivate your self-awareness: work on becoming more aware of your talents, strengths, and weaknesses; gather feedback from those who know you best and put it together for a comprehensive view of yourself.
- Be curious and commit to lifelong learning: try to adopt the attitude of a child, looking at the world around you with awe and wonderment, ask questions, and truly listen to the answers.
- Get friendly with challenges: know that if you mean to accomplish anything worthwhile, you will face many challenges on your journey; prepare yourself for meeting these challenges and for failing sometimes.
- Do what you love and love what you do: it’s much easier to succeed when you are passionate about what you’re doing; whether you cultivate a love for what you already do or focus on doing what you already love, developing passion is essential.
- Be tenacious: it takes a lot of hard work to succeed, but it takes even more than working hard—you must be determined, weathering obstacles and getting back up after each time you fall.
- Inspire and be inspired by others: it can be tempting to envy others when they succeed, especially if they go farther than you, but it will not help you to succeed; commit to being an inspiration to others and use the success of others to get inspiration as well.
I would recommend working with those on your team who have a fixed mindset well in advance of implementing any change. Your team will need some extra time to prepare themselves for the journey, and it will help minimize potential obstacles early in the process.
and Sprint Recruiting
I joined the HR industry in 2004 after working as a sales leader in the Financial Services Industry for eight years. After spending his first couple of years in HR trying to fit in, I found my voice. Now I leverage all of the things I once hated about HR to become a consultant and invaluable partner to the businesses I support. I contribute to the HRGazzette and to DataDrivenInvestor on Medium. WARNING: my writing style is raw and in your face, not what you would expect from an HR executive.
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