Always be a work in progress (The two mindsets theory)

Always be a work in progress (The two mindsets theory)

Bert Bleyen

Bert Bleyen


“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. Alternatively, In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.”

Having a growth mindset


Mindset by Carol Dweck

As heard in the video, your mindsets affects how you look to challenges, feedback, failure, development, relationships, sports mentality, … Everything.

Today, the concept of these two mindsets has become more wide spread and known. However, here are two new insights that I take away from the book "Mindset": 

1.    Praise on effort instead of praising on result

Here are some messages I recently heard at a school gate:

  • Wow you learned that so quickly, you are so smart
  • Look at that drawing, are you the next Picasso ?
  • You are the next Lionel Messi
  • You are so brilliant, you got a 10/10 without even studying ?

If you hear first supportive, good intentioned self-esteeming messages, listen more closely. See if you hear another message, the one that the child hears:

  • If I don't learn something quickly, I am not smart
  • I shouldn't try drawing anything hard or they will see I'm not Picasso
  • I’m successful when I am like Messi 
  • I'd better quit studying or they won't think I'm brilliant.

Research shows that praising your employees only on ability and results, is unintentionally putting pressure and judgement on them. In this way, they are forced into a fixed mindset: employees will avoid obstacles, feedback, new challenges, in order to avoid failure and disappointment concerning their ability.

So instead of giving praise about the smartest idea or for a brilliant performance, praise them for taking initiative, for seeing a difficult task through, for struggling with learning something new, for being undaunted by a setback or for being open to and acting on criticism.

growth mindset-1

2.   How can I get people from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset

Help them to become aware of their mindset and its effects:

  • Are there areas in which they once had low ability but now perform well ?
  • What are the positive effects when they would believe that people’s abilities can be developed and that someone’s end potential is unknown
  • Recall times they have seen people learn to do things they never thought these people could do. What made this possible ?

Some managers have the following conviction: “you have management ability or not, and you can not do much to change it.” If that is really true, why would you than bother people with trainings, feedback, coaching, learning initiatives, … ?


"We believe that people are ‘always a work in progress’, and so am I. That quote sounds easy, but I realize that it is hard work and not always easy. When I was a trainee, my coach was Laetitia Parisse: she helped me to reflect about myself, my convictions, values and behaviour: in my first week as an ORMIT’er, I was already tapping my manager on the shoulder, like how you would tap a friend in a bar when you are a little bit drunk. You could clearly see in the body language of the manager that he was not amused with it, but I kept on doing it because I was not aware. When Laetitia made me aware of that, I first went in ‘defence mode’: tapping someone’s shoulder, ‘that’s just how I am’, that manager just has to live with that… Afterwards I realised that this is what we call a ‘fixed mindset’, not leaving any space to grow. "- Bert Bleyen, Head of Talent Development


Have a look at this 3d-short animated video: what is the crucial moment when you see that growth mindset ? That same mindset that Michael Jordan, Pete Sampras and Mohammed Ali show in crucial and difficult games: it’s not only about the result and success, it’s about a continuous learning process: “Always be a work in progress