Mirror, Mirror, on the Neuron… Cracking the Growth Mindset Leadership Brain Code (and bringing your team along for the ride).

Remember those frustrating school projects where one teammate thrived under pressure, while another crumbled like a stale cookie? Turns out, that difference might not be about raw talent, but about the wiring in their brains. happy summer GIF by @SummerBreakAs a stress physiologist, I’ve spent years peering into the neural soup, and let me tell you, leaders with a growth mindset have a secret sauce simmering up there.

Think of your brain as a jungle gym. A fixed mindset leader sees a ladder of predetermined rungs leading to a fixed peak – climb it or fall off. But a growth mindset leader builds an intricate network of ropes, swings, and monkey bars, constantly exploring new paths to climb higher.

Neuroscience backs this up.

Studies show that growth-minded folks have thicker connections between brain regions linked to learning and flexibility. They literally grow more neural muscle when challenged!

So, what does this jungle gym translate to in the real world? Imagine two CEOs facing a market downturn. The fixed-mindset leader panics, clutches the old playbook, and ends up clinging to a shrinking branch. The growth-minded leader? They see the wobble as an opportunity to build sturdier ropes, maybe even a zipline to a previously unexplored market.art grow GIF

The results? A 2022 Stanford study found that companies with growth-minded CEOs saw 20% higher revenue growth and 17% higher employee engagement. Talk about ROI!

Now, don’t get me wrong, building this neural jungle gym takes work, but in working on growth mindset, you’re actually working on ….well growth mindset. Trying builds the muscles you need.

Here are some simple practical tips for developing and nurturing growth-mindset:

  • Embrace “beginner’s mind.” Ditch the know-it-all act and ask questions like a curious toddler. Remember, every expert was once a newbie clinging to that first rung.
  • Celebrate “micro-failures.” Every stumble is a stepping stone, folks. Normalize learning from mistakes and encourage your team to do the same. Think of it as building mental calluses – they’ll make you bolder, not weaker.
  • Nourish curiosity. Encourage experimentation, side projects, and even those “crazy” ideas that make you raise an eyebrow. You never know which one might be the next zipline to success.
  • Promote Learning Opportunities: Encourage team members to participate in training, workshops, and educational programs to foster a commitment to continuous learning.
  • Celebrate Effort and Progress: Acknowledge and celebrate the effort invested by individuals and teams, emphasizing the value of the learning process itself.
  • Provide Constructive Feedback: Frame feedback as an opportunity for growth rather than a judgment. Focus on specific areas for improvement and provide guidance on how to enhance skills.

Remember, cultivating a growth mindset isn’t just about you – it’s about building a team of fearless explorers.

Cat Mirror GIF

The coolest thing is that by playing on your own neural jungle gym you’re actually leading by example, and this example gets picked up by others through mirror neurons (a class of cells in the brain, that play a crucial role in social learning and imitation). Leaders, as influencers within their teams, can leverage mirror neurons to cultivate a growth mindset by demonstrating a commitment to continuous learning and improvement. When team members witness leaders embracing challenges, learning from mistakes, and displaying resilience, mirror neurons come into play, fostering a culture of learning and adaptability.

Neuroscientific research, such as that conducted by Marco Iacoboni, suggests that mirror neurons contribute to the understanding of others’ actions, intentions, and emotions. By embodying a growth mindset, leaders activate mirror neurons in their team, creating a ripple effect that encourages a collective commitment to growth and development

With the right neural jungle gym in place, you’ll see your team scaling impossible heights, innovating like mad scientists, and leaving the fixed-mindset folks gasping for air at the bottom.  The first rung awaits…get climbing!

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