The Foundation of Diverse Teams? A Growth Mindset

I talk to a lot of companies these days that are seeking new ways to build diversity within their organization.

I always ask them if they are employing a growth mindset when developing talent. For example, how many people have they promoted to strategic roles from within the company in the previous year?

Per HBR, a growth mindset can be defined as:

“Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning.”

 

This mindset isn’t only limited to the individuals themselves, but are also an important part of career development programs within companies. Great hiring managers know that they should be open-minded when considering candidates’ backgrounds, and invest heavily in high-potential individuals.

I have personally grown and developed because of this mindset.

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I transitioned into Product Management because the company I was working for at the time, Bazaarvoice, saw my work in Customer Success, and recognized how well I channeled customer needs into product requirements. I worked hard and formed relationships within the Product team, and thankfully, that hard work was recognized, and I was given the opportunity to launch a career in product.

If my company had only hired product managers with CS backgrounds plus an MBA, which is typical for the tech industry, I wouldn’t have had the chance to flourish in a career that’s taken me from Product Manager, to Director of Product, all the way to starting my own company, SameWorks. Not to mention that my background meant that I had unique experiences that enriched the overall perspective of the product teams I worked on.

This is a perfect example of how companies who believe in a growth mindset operate. They believe that the talented people within their organization are capable of growing skills and capabilities over time, and they fuel that growth by providing them opportunities within the company to leverage those new skills.

When I became a hiring manager within product at WP Engine, I worked hard to ensure that we were considering the holistic capabilities of the people we were interviewing. That meant that we hired MBAs, but also hired a highly technical Theater and Dance major, who put himself through college by building websites. We promoted our top-performing sales engineer into product as well.

 

In other words, the intern working in Customer Support today might be your top performing Software Engineer a few years down the road.

By grooming top talent within an organization, companies also are better able to retain that talent over a longer period within the company. If you don’t have junior roles available for high potential internal employees, you risk losing those people to other opportunities outside of the company. It may be tempting to try to keep these individuals productive in their current role, but ultimately, everyone needs the opportunity to advance within their career.

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Diversity isn’t just about hiring people with varied demographics in your company. It also extends to their work backgrounds, their education, and their life experiences. There have been numerous studies that prove that diverse teams outperform others.  For instance, McKinsey ran a study showing that gender diverse teams are 15% more productive, and ethnically diverse teams are 35% more productive.

Diversity is good for business because...

The core reason why diversity is so good for business is that people with different degrees, fields of study, and life experiences provide diverse viewpoints, and pressure-test assumptions. When you open your mind to promoting from within, and broadening your definition of what backgrounds a successful candidate might have, you create a perfect foundation for building diverse teams.

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About the Author

Crystal Hansen is founder and CEO of SameWorks, based in Austin, TX. SameWorks helps companies get certified for pay equity, using simple and affordable software tools and analytics, which improve recruiting, retention and performance.