Why a Fixed Mindset Delivers Average Performance

Whether or not leaders realize it, their organizations have a collective consciousness – one that is dictated by common language and shared values of executives, leaders, and employees. Throughout the 20th century, organizations generally developed collective consciousness that can be placed into three categories: (1) energy and power, (2) order and conformity, and (3) success and achievement.

These three categories closely align with the bottom three levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, being: (1) physiological safety (food, drink, shelter), (2) safety (personal and financial security, and health and well-being), and (3) social belonging (friendships, intimacy, and family). These three levels – both in organizational consciousness and the hierarchy of needs – fulfill the basic needs of organizations and humans, respectively. Consequently, organizations falling into these three levels of consciousness typically operate with a fixed mindset (this will be discussed in further detail later), compromising their ability to adapt and grow with the increasingly complex economy and the diverse needs of today’s multi-generational workforce.

Let’s quickly review the characteristics that fall into the three basic styles of organizational consciousness.

  1. Energy & Power
    These organizational cultures typically operate in survival-mode, and are characterized by results-driven, highly competitive, and aggressive leadership. The organization promotes a culture of winning and has a hyper-economic focus.
  2. Order & Conformity
    Organizations prioritizing order and conformity generally subscribe to the traditional, top-down hierarchical organizational structure. Their culture is driven by a desire to belong – encouraging conformity and conservative business practices. These organizations are often characterized by the mantra, “This is the way we have always done it here.”
  3. Success & Achievement
    Companies promoting success and achievement are driven by highly independent, self-reliant, and goal-driven employees. Leaders and employees are typically concerned with their image and status, and how that impacts their self-esteem.

These styles of collective consciousness were foundational throughout the 20th century, but still exist in organizations today. They typically yield functional to average performance (as opposed to high, or even ultra-high, performance), and are much more individualistic, competitive, and hierarchical than more advanced organizational consciousness styles.

These three styles of consciousness yield mediocre organizational performance (at best) because they are based upon fixed mindset ideologies. A fixed mindset is characterized by a belief that individual qualities, strengths, and weaknesses are innate and cannot be changed. The individual either believes they are great at something, or they are not – and that there is no room for change. Individuals with a fixed mindset define themselves by their failures, conform to what they know they are good at, and work to hide their flaws for fear of judgment.

Studies show time and again that high-performing organizations are defined by their agility, collaboration, employee engagement, and feelings of psychological safety – which a fixed mindset will not create. Developing an organizational growth mindset through effective leadership is essential to purposely creating a success-focused culture within an organization. Next week’s blog will explain the advanced styles of consciousness germane to a growth mindset, why a growth mindset is essential for the purposeful creation of a success-focused organization, and how your organization can achieve high-performance.

Much of the research on the evolution of organizational consciousness was done by our partner and friend Andrew Jenkins of PDX Consulting. We recently collaborated in hosting an interactive seminar on how soft skills drive high-performance during which we discussed organizational consciousness, conflict styles, and how to develop a high-performing organization. We would be delighted to help your organization cultivate a high-performance culture – contact us today!