A Learning Mindset: What Makes a Lifelong Learner?
Loren Learny | 4 min read
Careers today are a nonstop commitment to change. Workers need to keep learning and gaining skills at every level, especially in technology and related fields. Encouraging lifelong learning ensures agile and adaptable talent with relevant skills and the flexibility to pivot when the next change rolls through.
A lifelong learner continues to build new skills and professional capabilities beyond their formal education. They study new topics, have an open mind about new processes, and actively seek opportunities to expand their knowledge.
Companies have more flexibility than ever for hiring new talent. Where once they relied on official qualifications, titles, and diplomas for decision-making, they can now hire for skill. Part-time contract workers and gig economy freelancers are increasing and diversifying the talent pool. In this constantly changing work environment, it makes sense for employers to value lifelong learners.
Minding your mindsets
A person’s learning mindset refers to their fundamental approach to learning. A learning mindset differs from a learning style, which includes visual or tactile learners. Mindset affects learner behavior and what they take away from a learning experience. Leaders and lifelong learners show up with a growth mindset — a powerful ingredient for success.
A fixed mindset is an obstacle to overcome. A fixed mindset believes people’s basic qualities, including intelligence and talent, are fixed and not conducive to change or development. Those with a fixed mindset interpret a challenge as a foregone failure instead of recognizing it as an opportunity for growth. Leading with a fixed mindset makes your team vulnerable to fear of failure, more likely to struggle with motivation and interest in expanding their potential, and defensive. In a fixed mindset working environment, employees experience an unhealthy culture full of drama, negativity, and stress.
Contrast this with a growth mindset, which is founded on the idea of talents, abilities, intelligence, and skills as products of consistent effort and perseverance. With its primary focus on process, as opposed to outcome, a growth mindset approaches a challenge as an opportunity.
A focus on growth creates a healthy culture of learning and accountability among your employees. Leaders with a growth mindset can find an opportunity in every situation, up to and including a crisis. Confronting a challenge is a chance to accelerate team growth and build resilience. And teams led with a growth mindset are more open to feedback, accountable for their own progress, and creative when problems arise — all critical attributes for innovation and success.
As a leader, cultivating a growth mindset encourages your team to do the same. Start with these steps:
- Be accountable. Accept responsibility for your own growth. Model accountability for your team, set clear expectations, and follow them yourself.
- Focus on success. Leverage failure as a learning opportunity. Watch for ways your business can benefit from what you learn, so even failure contains a measure of success.
- Put in the time. Learning and growth can’t happen without commitment. Make a plan and follow through on it, and devote time every day to achieving your goals.
- Add value. Learning is about creating value. Employees should feel their journey is about more than your bottom line. Find additional value by investing in a happier, healthier, and more well-rounded work force.
- Show gratitude. Gratitude is a core requirement for a growth mindset. It has the momentum and positive energy to inspire and encourage your team — but only if you express it.
- Find purpose. Self-awareness is key to a growth mindset. Practice awareness of your purpose and personal goals, and note how well they align with your organization’s vision. Brainstorm creative ways for you and your team members to converge career and company goals.
- Focus on process. Results are important, but don’t limit your focus to outcomes at the expense of the lessons you and your employees can learn along the way. Every problem-solving process has several opportunities for learning, growth, and engagement.
- Practice perseverance. Steady growth requires time. You can’t create a solid foundation for success in an instant. Recognize and reward employee progress and persistence.