Business management

Growth mindset: setting goals

Entrepreneurs are being encouraged to adopt a growth mindset to boost their business and personal performance. But how can they best set out a path to reach their goals?

However, those with a growth mindset believe that through training, effort, learning and practice they can positively influence their abilities. The theory can be utilised in all aspects of life, from school to the workplace. All levels of business can benefit from a growth mindset.

“Having a fixed mindset means hearing things such as ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘it won’t work here’,” says Adam Payne, managing director of consultants TCMUK. “When people with fixed mindsets come to an issue that requires more effort, they conclude they’re no good at it. But a growth mindset learns from obstacles, sees mistakes as interesting and grows from them.”

Joe Trodden, chief executive of Mindset Experts, which helps teach entrepreneurs growth mindset principles, agrees. “The five key traits of a growth mindset are effort, being open to feedback, not having a fear of failure, rising to challenges and going outside of your comfort zone,” he says. “When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re constantly going into unchartered territory, such as building the product or employing people. You need to understand your strengths and then focus on what skills you need to develop at each point of the business development. You could be naturally great with people but not good at giving constructive feedback. You need to focus on changing that to go to the next level of leadership.”

Identify the skills you need to improve

Developing a plan to achieve growth is vital in ensuring success. “If you’re not good at building a team or listening then you need to work out a plan to grow this skill,” says Trodden.

“Create a plan which makes sure that in the next conversation you’re vigilant of how often you talk and perhaps use different questions to get a deeper understanding of employees,” he says. “When we work with entrepreneurs we create a 12-month vision, which we break down into weekly goals for them to complete a particular growth task. That could be going out to network with more people if they’re slightly introverted. We hold weekly accountability sessions to ensure they are being followed.”

Trodden advises all entrepreneurs to create an accountability plan telling them what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it.

Set measurable targets

Gaynor Rigby, managing partner at wealth management firm Equilibrium Asset Management, says its growth has been built on growth mindset. “It means you’re always learning, always looking to improve, that you don’t stick with the status quo,” she says. “You’re always looking for the positive in every experience for what you can learn.”

It’s about focusing on supporting staff growth, from recommending books and podcasts to each other, right through to the EQ Diploma Academy, its internal training programme.

The five key traits of a growth mindset are effort, being open to feedback, not having a fear of failure, rising to challenges and going outside of your comfort zone

Joe Trodden,
Chief executive, Mindset Experts

“This is a group of peers who are all working towards senior positions and as a group they share ideas, questions, resources and support each other’s growth,” she says. “Setting goals is also important. We have targets based on numbers and data which are easy, clear ways of measuring our success and progress. We have created a document, which sets out where we’re going as a business. What will it feel and look like when we get there, who will have contributed and how? When we look at our regular reporting we don’t just ask: ‘Did we hit the target? Did we get it right?’ We look at: ‘What’s next? How can we do better?’”

Practically, that means outlining objectives such as a business’s target number of staff, which teams will be bigger than they are now, which teams will be brand new, the ideal number of clients and profit lines.

“It’s all mapped out in as much detail as possible,” adds Rigby. “The numbers are great and really spell out where we’re going, but it’s the values like never stopping learning and constantly asking how we can improve that add the colour and make it personal and relevant.”

Create a five-year plan

Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Caspar Craven, is another growth mindset advocate. "You can learn the skills you need to take you to the next level,” he says. “I never used to have that mindset but adopting it has been transformational.”

In 2009 his analytics business Trovus and his marriage were struggling. “We decided to set out a five-year plan for our family that would result in us turning the business around and then sailing round the world,” he says. “I started learning more from experts and being humbler in building a team. I set revenue and profit targets which helped us gauge whether the shift in mindset and approach was working.”

Craven set goals to fill personal skill gaps in sales, marketing, product development, team building and leadership. “I acquired them one by one starting with sales,” he says. “It’s an iterative process. Get something fixed and then move on. But you need to continually question everything and engage with staff about what’s motivating them and what they need. In the end we went around the world and sold the business while we were crossing the Pacific.”

Take on one goal at a time

Setting growth goals can be likened to training for a marathon, according to Guy Blaskey, founder of pet food firm Pooch and Mutt. “You can’t do 26 miles from day one. You need to set goals of 5k then 10k and so on. Put it in bite-sized chunks,” he says. “That is growth mindset. It’s got nothing to do with talent. It’s all to do with knowing what you want to achieve and breaking it down into achievable steps.

“You must define where you want the business to be in three years, then five and keep redoing it and make a plan to work backwards. What can each one of us do in the next 12 months to start with?”

He uses an Orbit design template that helps sets targets. “If you have a revenue target moving from £1m to £10m then you can set out where you aim to be in each year. You can break it down to sales growth per product and range, which sales channels to go down and what staff and suppliers I will need year by year,” he says. “It’s also about training courses, collaborating with others and listening to customers. We want to put the customer first and do the right thing for their pets, such as new sugar-free recipes. We want to find out what’s important for them and help them achieve it.”

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