Bring a Growth Mindset

February 15, 2022

Over the last month and a half, my team at LGND has been taking time at our weekly All Hands meeting to walk through our team values. These values had been updated and simplified last year. Over half of our current team are new to LGND in the last year. For these two reasons, it was a good time to review our values and have discussions about them.

One of the things that have impressed me the most about working for LGND is that the values are not just words on a piece of paper but they are central to the company DNA and have been embraced by each team member. I continue to feel valued as a team member, as time and again, LGND has acted on these values on both a personal level and through our professional relationships.

This past week, we discussed the value of “bringing a growth mindset.” What does a growth mindset look like at LGND?

  • We are always learning
  • We are finding and gaining new experiences
  • We get our hands dirty
  • We are willing to explore and experiment
  • We are willing to get uncomfortable and step outside of our comfort zone
  • We are constantly getting better
  • We believe that we should make every project better than the last one

Importance of environment

One of our newest teammates made a valuable observation. “I’d be curious to hear about how we approach failure as an organization. I feel like this kind of experimentation and risk-taking is only possible in a “safe to fail” environment.” She was correct. You need to have an environment of trust and one where you know that other teammates have your back. That is why it is important that we build this value on top of two other values of “cultivating compassion” and “choosing optimism and identifying solutions.” LGND has done a great job of building this “safe environment” which encourages risk-taking.

When my teammate brought up this point about having a safe to fail environment, I immediately thought about a chapter in the book, Creativity, Inc., entitled, Fear and Failure. It was the chapter I found most meaningful when we read the book together at the end of 2019. The chapter talks about how Pixar built this kind of safe environment within its company culture.

“Trusting others doesn’t mean that they won’t make mistakes. It means that if they do (or if you do), you trust they will act to help solve it.” (Creativity Inc., page 125)

“We should assume… that our people’s intentions are good and that they want to solve problems. Give them responsibility, let the mistakes happen, and let people fix them.” (Creativity Inc., page 128)

Trusting your people helps to build this safe environment that allows the kind of growth mindset that drives the work forward.

A value I already possessed

As I have been thinking more about this value, I realized that it was a value that I brought with me when I joined LGND. I don’t think I had consciously thought about it before, but having a growth mindset has been something I have exercised for some time. My first job out of college was with Campus Crusade for Christ. The nature of my role entailed a lot of responsibility and ownership for a person just out of school. More than you might find in a lot of other entry-level jobs. I quickly learned that I needed to take personal responsibility for my growth and create those learning opportunities. And my leadership trusted me to work out how to best do my job with the area of campus I was given responsibility for.

I am naturally inclined with a love for learning and a curiosity to try new things. I first learned how to build a website with HTML as a hobby because I was interested in it and wanted to learn how to do it. Having a growth mindset was baked into my experiences as a Web professional right from the beginning. And becoming part of a young industry in the early stages made having a growth mindset a necessity to thrive and survive in this work.

A recent example of how I exercised this value

Recently, I had an opportunity to exercise this growth mindset in my project work. We are building a one-page site for a well-known financial institution. It is a 12-week education program to help mentor sole small business entrepreneurs that traditionally do not have access to these types of programs. The client asked our design team to rework several sections of content to be accordions. I understood the client was wanting to simplify the presentation of information to the user as to not overwhelm them. Not being a big fan of the layout shift that vertical accordion content can cause, I challenged myself to come up with another solution.

I had the idea of making a section of accordion elements into a horizontal accordion that expanded to reveal one section of content by sliding horizontally. I had built a similar type of component in a freelance project many years ago. The accordion triggers would be the section headings with the text rotated counterclockwise with CSS. This solution would accomplish the same goal of not making the content seem so overwhelming but presented it in a fashion that did not cause layout shift and a more enjoyable experience with the sliding accordion panels.

I reached out to a teammate to get his thoughts on my idea. I knew that I would need to talk to our design team but thought it would be better to have a working prototype that I could show them instead of just trying to explain what I envisioned. I reworked that solution and wrote new CSS and JavaScript for the animation interaction. I then approached the two designers on the team to get their feedback.

I got immediate buy-in from the lead designer. She was thrilled with my solution. That section of the site had been through several revisions and she was not necessarily loving the solution she had landed on. She was really excited about how I solved it.

This is one of the things that I really enjoy about working on a team instead of on my own as a freelancer or contractor. We can work together and have these interactions and improve upon each other’s solutions.

Character qualities needed to exercise a growth mindset

I believe there are at least three character qualities that need to be exercised to have a growth mindset, especially in a team environment.

  • Humility
  • Trust
  • Confidence

Humility comes into play in being willing to “kill your darlings” and listening to your teammates when they make suggestions or give constructive feedback. My teammate could have rejected my idea. She might have felt differently about her solution and not been as receptive to a different one. I also had to have the humility to be willing to give up on my idea if my other teammates did not think it was a better solution.

We also have to exercise humility when we get feedback. On each of our projects, we not only test and evaluate our own work but have others test and evaluate it as well. Many times this will lead to feedback from teammates challenging me to improve something, to polish it more, or sometimes to come up with a different solution entirely. Early on in my time with LGND, I was not always as receptive to this feedback. I had to exercise trust in my teammates that they were making the suggestions to make the product better. The more that I trust my teammates, the easier it is for me to exercise humility.

And last, you need to have confidence in order to live out the growth mindset value. And I would describe it as a “humble confidence.” It is the confidence that you have the skills or can acquire the skills necessary to take a risk and can make it happen. It is moving forward optimistically but it is not arrogant confidence. There are many times when I have been handed a project and had no idea how I was going to pull it off. But I have learned by experience things usually work out (and they have). Each success builds that confidence to boldly approach new challenges in the future.

You may fail. You may have to pivot. You may have to pair back what you really want to do based on the time and skills you currently possess. Timelines play a huge factor in this. And you may need to exercise humility again in recognizing the limits. You may not be able to go as big as you wanted. But you tried. You learned. You gained valuable experience. And usually out of the failure comes an even better solution that was a team effort that a lot of times includes the client. And those are usually the biggest wins.

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