Phrase Your Praise: How A Leader’s Praise Can Influence Mindsets

I’ve just stumbled across this little gem of information. In this enlightening video clip, psychologist Carol Dweck talks about the results of a study she did on 5th graders, where she tested the effect of praise on mindsets.

It shows the difference between praising children for their intelligence versus the effort they made i.e. “Wow, you’re really smart at this”, compared with “you did well, you must have tried really hard”.

The results were startling. The children who were praised for their intelligence wanted to continue doing easy puzzles, which they knew they were good at (within their comfort zones, not wanting to try something new for fear of failure). By contrast, the children praised for effort requested more tricky puzzles (the process of learning something new was the main driver).

With fixed mindsets, challenges are avoided, because to fail suggests that they ‘lack the intelligence’ required.
With growth mindsets, challenges are embraced, as it is believed that they can improve at a task. Effort therefore is seen as worthwhile as opposed to futile.

It made me think about leaders and the effect we can have on the mindsets of those we lead (in addition to our own).

Think about it, when you give praise, do you praise based on fixed mind-sets (such as inherent traits like IQ or natural talent) or on growth mind-sets (such as the person’s effort, determination or resilience).

It can be the difference between the voice in our heads that tells us to do things perfectly and not to make a mistake and the voice that says “here’s an opportunity, a challenge or mistake I can learn from.”

What is your mindset?
How can you ‘phrase your praise’ to encourage growth mindsets in those you lead?

1 Comment

  1. […] a growth mindset towards yourself and those you lead. If you want to know how, read up on Carol Dweck’s compelling research on this […]

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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