By Amber Hudson

 At SW&A, we think differently about employee engagement. We call our approach “Spirit of 32” and this blog series chronicles our journey. We share what we’re learning along with resources you can leverage in your own work. We’re happy to be your test bed so if you have ideas, please let us know.

A few years ago, when she was half-way through Grade 1, my daughter said to me, “Mommy, I hate math.”

Really? “If Jimmy has one apple and Joyce has 2 apples, how many apples are there?” This is the complexity that’s going to bring you down? I stared at her. She stared at me.

Considering math doesn’t get real until you hit long division, I figured the basis for her perspective was what other kids were saying versus her actual experience. We had reached a pivotal moment…and I didn’t want to screw it up.

I explained to her that she could resign herself to an “I hate math” mindset and never really try, or she could say “yeah, it’s hard (oh honey, wait ‘til you hit calculus) but I’m going to try hard and learn it anyways.” I held my breath, crossed my fingers, and….my little duckling chose the second option.

She demonstrated a classic case of choosing a growth mindset over a fixed mindset.

Over 30 years ago, Carol Dweck coined the term “growth mindset” to describe the beliefs we have about learning and intelligence: when we believe we can get smarter, we understand that effort makes us stronger so we put in the time and effort.

The same is true for employees. In fact, we know firsthand that embracing a growth mindset leads to employees who feel more engaged, empowered, and committed. Fostering a growth mindset can be done in many ways including:

Building a culture that is willing to take risks and accept failure

An inevitable part of growth is failure. And adapting a growth mindset means accepting the chance that you might fail. But innovation, creativity, and growth wouldn’t be possible if people weren’t willing to take risks.

Encouraging employees to step out of their daily work  

Developing new skills is always valuable. Setting aside time to build skills such as collaboration and leadership is key to making people more productive and inspired at work. 

Fostering commitment, determination and innovation

Employees at growth mindset companies feel more committed to their work because they have the potential to grow, learn, and thrive within it. They are also more motivated to do their best because they know that their personal development and hard work is valued. (source:

Here a few more resources to help you develop and encourage a growth mindset in your organization:

Shift to a Growth Mindset With These 8 Powerful Strategies:  For example, create a new compelling belief or view failure in a different light

Questions for coaching a growth mindset: 5 questions to develop a growth mindset and 5 feedback comments to develop a growth mindset

Change your mindset voice: For example, learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice” or recognize that you have a choice.

Now in Grade 4, my daughter hasn’t said those words again. While at times I can feel the frustration emanating from within, she attacks her math homework like a boss. Score one for the kiddo.