We all crave success. We join companies, we build companies, we strive to close the perfect deal. But here’s the thing: Success is complex, and in the process of striving for it, we might be forgetting the most essential ingredient.
People. Because yes, eventually business is about people. We work with and for each other every day, and it’s the quality of this collaboration that determines our success. Therefore, it’s essential to pick the right partners and clients, and in the process, to increase one’s own potential.
So how to recognise who’s best?
The famous first impression is there for a reason. When we meet someone, we judge them. Beginners draw on the obvious: Appearance. Presence. Degrees. Let’s see, impressive body language? Talks with ease? Probably competent. Stellar qualifications? That’s your wo/man! Keeps mentioning non-standard approaches? Hmm, maybe pass. Someone quiet and observant? Nope.
Beginners think to know what’s up and it’s these superficial assumptions that are mistake number one. A seasoned businessperson, on the other hand, will tell you that to really judge a person means to understand how they think. Do they focus on details or the bigger picture? Are they confrontational or do they focus on problem solving?
Mistake number two is more concealed, but in some ways even worse – namely to form an idea of someone or even yourself and then to never let go of it. For example, Jim has always been amazing in sales and that’s all he can ever do. Julie, meanwhile, is an IT whizz, so she’s IT Julie. Or you, maybe you’ve always sucked at sports, so you’re a bookish person, or vice versa, and that’s how it’ll be, forever and always. This is what Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck calls a fixed mindset. Skills and beliefs are carved in stone.
Of course in order to be successful and to keep up with future developments, a fixed mindset, and with it a traditional view of business and the world, will not be of much help. Today, people can’t afford to focus on just one trait or to keep excelling at just one area.
This is where Dweck’s second concept comes in. When she talks about a fixed mindset, she also describes its fluid and more successful counterpart, the growth mindset. With this distinction, skills and intelligence stop being viewed as something you just have or don’t have, and instead, they become traits you can constantly build and improve; if you make the effort.
This distinction also becomes crucial when selecting who to work with, especially once issues arise. We heard Jim is great at approaching and sales, but he’s not ready to extend this to a digital platform. Then there’s IT Julie who’s already digitally fluent, but has less sales talent. Still, she says, okay, today I’m not there yet, but I’ll learn. Even with sports or reading, everyone begins small.
Oftentimes people aren’t even aware of their closed mindsets. This is why it’s important to communicate growth. Within your team, acknowledge where you came from and where you are now – look at that distance – and say, this is what we learned and this is the effort we put in, and this is the result, this is our growth.
The strongest relationships will always be with the people who recognise the continuous need to learn and grow. Not only in business, but on a personal, political, and public level. Instead of focusing on how someone presents themselves, try to understand how they think. Have they acquired any skill over the past year? Do they read up on their passion? Are they open to trying new things?