You already have a growth mindset. Is a benefit mindset next?

Is a benefit mindset your next leadership goal?

Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset in the 1980s shifted our understanding of how mindsets interact with reality to shape our experiences.

Someone with a growth mindset understands that development is possible throughout our lives.

They believe that effort, perseverance and learning from their mistakes are at the root of success, rather than inherent ability or talent.

Having a growth mindset is connected to…

Better performance

Better outcomes

Greater perseverance in the face of challenge

High levels of confidence and wellbeing in both children and adults.

benefit mindset

Advances in neuroscience and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology has confirmed the physical science of this; our brains can continue to build new neural pathways – the building blocks of learning – until the day we die.

[Want to deep dive more into this? I can highly recommend Normans Doidge’s The Brain that Changes Itself ]

There are many benefits to having a growth mindset (check out my previous blog where I explore the advantages – and surprising disadvantages).

But what lies beyond a growth mindset?

Once we try hard to cultivate and (intelligently) practice growth mindset beliefs, what’s next? 

Is there more to the whole mindsets game?

This was the question Ash Buchanan, a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology student at the University of Melbourne asked a few years ago. I lead the Applications of Positive Psychology subject in the Masters program and met Ash when he came into Applications.  He is a deep, thorough systems thinker and the quality of his work around this topic is excellent.

Ash’s answer to this question was ‘benefit mindset’.

From growth mindset to benefit mindset

Dweck’s work thinks of mindsets as a continuum from fixed –> growth, which encourages us to think about what we do (Fixed) and how we do it (Growth) as individuals.

Benefit mindset moves beyond the individual to the collective and asks us to consider not what and how we do something, but why.  In this journal article Ash and his co-auther Dr Peggy Kern, describe the potential of benefit mindset:

“In effect, Dweck’s framework has isolated learning and accomplishment from the broader context of leadership and purpose.

The Benefit Mindset describes everyday leaders who discover their strengths to make valuable contributions to causes that are greater than the self, leaders who believe in making a meaningful difference, positioning their actions within a purposeful context. We argue that creating cultures of contribution and everyday leadership could be one of the best points of leverage we have for simultaneously bringing out the best in people, organizations and the planet.”

So what does a benefit mindset look like compared to fixed and growth?

benefit mindset

(Buchanan & Kern, 2017)

We can see from this how mindsets shape the way we perceive and understand the world.

Our mindset is the foundation for our ‘everyday’ or default behaviours and actions. There is no way to avoid the subconscious influence of our mindset; it is like the puppet master, pulling the ‘everyday’ strings of our future possibilities on both individual and collective levels (Clifton, 2013).

The benefit mindset exemplifies the feeling well, doing well, leading well principles that underpin my model of Leveraged Leadership. It positions individual development and effort within a collective and purposeful context and offers a way for us to consider what it means to learn and lead – to achieve and collectively contribute.

Leveraged Leadership focuses not on how leaders can thrive individually, but rather how they can create the context and conditions for themselves and others to flourish; understanding that our ability to flourish as individuals is fundamentally connected with the communities and systems to which we belong.

Never has there been a more crucial time for us to fully appreciate and consider the interwoven nature of human and ecological flourishing.

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.” 
— Martin Luther King Jr

benefit mindset

Millennials and the benefit mindset – why it matters to you

As I highlighted in a recent blog, research is showing that Millennials want to do meaningful work and are looking to and for purpose-driven leaders to follow. More generally, a sense of purpose in work is consistently rated as more desirable than promotions, income, job security and flexible hours, and there is a growing body of evidence that meaningful work makes us feel better and perform better at work.

By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials. Success in the future belongs to businesses with purpose.

Developing a benefit mindset could be one of the best ways to truly embed it into your business operations.

Using business as a force for good and promoting cultures of thriving – for everyone.

The good news is that with the right intention, action and conditions, we can consciously shift our mindsets.

benefit mindset

How could adopting a benefit mindset impact your leadership?

Here are some questions for you to consider:

Why do you do the work that you do?

  • Simon Sinek suggests that a simple way to uncover your why is to complete this sentence:  

‘Almost everything I do is to ______________ so that __________________.’

You can then use this statement to prioritise what you do and how you do it each day at work. You can find more on this here.

How does your work connect to your life values?

  • Make a list of the 5 things that are most important in your life – things like family, friends, spirituality, money, career and work/life balance. Then ask yourself how your job is serving those values, so that you understand how what you value in your life is supported and/or met at work can feel more aligned with your job.

How does your work impact other people and the environment?

  • Think about your job’s purpose and the peoples’ lives that benefit from it. You may not have direct contact with them, but identifying the positive impact of your work can help you see the greater good that comes from your effort.

(Read my entire blog post on the importance of discovering your ‘why’ for more insight)

The work on benefit mindset is in its infancy and there are still many unanswered questions. You can read more about Ash’s work at his website

If you’d like to explore how you, your team or your organisation could shift to a more benefit mindset, contact me about my coaching, facilitation or a Sounding Board session.

Copyright 2019: Dr Paige Williams

Paige Williams, PhD

Paige Williams, PhD

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach

Paige helps leaders leverage their leadership to lead teams that deliver and create culture that feeds high performance.

Leveraging Leadership for positive purposeful impact.