How to Give Feedback With a Growth-Mindset Approach


Giving feedback is a perennial challenge in the workplace.

Research has shown that while 60% of employees want regular feedback from their bosses, only 50% of managers are able to deliver constructive feedback — and understandably so. A lot of managers worry about negative reactions to feedback conversations, and shy away from opportunities to provide important information.

But there does seem to be an antidote. Research shows that growth mindset, the belief that skills can be improved with time and effort, can equip us with tools to provide meaningful and supportive feedback, and make the conversation rewarding for both parties.

Download the NLI white paper, “Transforming Performance Management with a Growth Mindset Approach”

Praising the process

When we tell a colleague or employee that they’re “good at” a specific task, we’re using the language of fixed mindset: the belief that talents are intrinsic rather than malleable. By contrast, when we provide positive feedback on the strategies that led the person to success, we encourage a growth mindset, helping the recipient view feedback as an opportunity to hone an ever-evolving skillset.

Leaders can foster growth mindset by rewarding improvement rather than results. For instance, when praising a teammate for a job well done, be sure to highlight the journey they took rather than an award or contract they may have won. When we recognize the effort and persistence behind a good result, rather than attributing it to innate qualities, our feedback is more meaningful, and encourages the recipient to revisit those positive behaviors when faced with their next challenge.

Learning the language

The language of growth mindset is a powerful tool to help teams provide and receive feedback more easily. When we shift our team’s language, such as by recasting “negative” feedback as “developmental,” we keep everyone’s brain in what scientists call a toward state, where a person is focused on reward rather than risk. In a toward state, people are more likely to view feedback as an opportunity to grow and improve, instead of as a threat. And a little goes a long way: We can build growth mindset with changes as simple as adding the word “yet” to key sentences (as in, “I don’t know how to do that, yet.”).

Encourage your teammates to reach out to one another for feedback more often, and talk to them about how to deliver it using the language of growth mindset. When we shift the focus to “getting better” rather than “being good,” we make space for growth mindset to flourish in everyday attitudes and conversations.

What growth mindset makes possible

Transforming Performance Management with a Growth Mindset Approach,” the latest white paper from the NeuroLeadership Institute, offers an expanded look into the role that growth mindset plays in successful workplace interactions. Combining research and real-life corporate experiences, the paper outlines the key benefits of a growth mindset for feedback conversations and more.

When a team shifts its mindset around feedback, managers and employees are also able to have more successful performance management conversations. If an employee views an annual review with a fixed mindset, it becomes a source of threat, and can cause anxiety or fear. However, with a shift to a growth mindset, a performance conversation becomes one more opportunity to recognize improvement and suggest areas of growth and development in a positive setting.

Learn more about what growth mindset can do for you and your team by grabbing a copy of the white paper today, and explore what is possible when we adjust how we understand feedback.

Author: Emma Briggs

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