Developing a Growth Mindset

Last week we shared our definition of a Growth Mindset. A growth mindset is an attitude and a way of life – one doesn’t have a growth mindset for a day or for a week.

Your growth mindset affects how you approach challenges, obstacles, and disappointment. This is not to say that you’re naive about life, but rather you believe that you can learn from every event even if it’s unpleasant or painful.

Research suggests that a growth mindset is a critical part of brain plasticity. Scientists are learning that our brains continue to grow, expand, build new pathways, and evolve as we experience new events – both pleasant and unpleasant. How great is that?

We heard from a number of you that you want to develop your growth mindset (which, by the way, is growth mindset; so BRAVO!). We’ve created a list of some suggestions on how to do so.


  • Get curious about what’s happening in your organization or with members of your team.
  • Take feedback from others seriously and explore ways to use it to enhance your contributions.
  • Practice your leadership and communication skills so that you’re constantly growing in your skills and deepening your wisdom.
  • Ask and then truly listen.
  • Read and grab opportunities to learn and widen your perspective.
  • Consider how one lesson you’ve learned can be applied to other experiences.
  • Consider the perspective of others and how they came to that perspective.

This week see if you can practice these growth mindset activities, and notice whether you start to see a change in how you respond to the world at large.

We’d love to hear how these worked for you!

If you’d like 1:1 support in
putting a growth mindset into practice,
contact us today about our Executive Coaching.

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You Got Promoted, Now What? Gratitude!

In our recent post Asking for a Promotion, we talked about some steps to take to prepare yourself before asking for a promotion. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about what to do if you get the promotion.

When you’re ready to move to the next level of responsibility and authority, you may become very focused on getting the job while thinking very little about how you’ll successfully make the transition into that new role. And, the transition is key!

No matter how much you believe you can do the new job, if you aren’t thoughtful about the transition into the role you may undermine your credibility and, frankly, piss people off—the very same people you need to work closely with to succeed.

We’ve all had the experience of someone we’ve known and worked with getting a promotion and coming into the role with a swagger trying to prove they deserved the promotion.

They come in talking about what I’m going to do now, when—actually—to succeed, they need to enter with

    • gratitude for the opportunity
    • curiosity about the people they will be leading
    • respect for what’s been done historically

—even if they believe that, ultimately, some changes should be made.

So today, we’re going to consider
what it looks like to express gratitude for
the opportunity to help the team create success..

You’ve gotten the promotion, which means you’ve been hired to take the role or team to the next level.

    • As you start to meet with the individuals and your team, let them know that you’re excited and grateful to be working closely with them as individuals and as a team.
    • Convey that you trust that together you can set a course that will continue their current success, add to their impact, work toward getting the resources needed to succeed, and make the department a great place to work.
    • Frame the conversation in the “we” rather than “I” to engage them in being a solution on behalf of the department and organization.

Even if this has been a relatively low-functioning team, sharing your gratitude for them and their work will invite them to work with you to create success. Some will show up with higher energy and engagement because you’re painting a picture of a future where, together, “we” can succeed.

As you enter the new role, demonstrate that you’re grateful to be in the position to support and contribute to their success, and that you will be working with them to achieve it, not positioning yourself to be a sole shining star.

Wishing you success!

If you’ve landed the promotion and would
like support with this important transition,
contact us today about Executive Coaching.

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What Does Work Mean to You?

Today is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated in the US. Always the first Monday in September, Labor Day is dedicated to recognizing and honoring the contributions of American workers.

So, in recognition of Labor Day, we asked friends, colleagues, and clients to share what work means in their lives. We know that there is a lot of pressure in the culture today to do “work you love” and yet for many people, in their efforts to create a life they love, work is only a part of that; and in many cases, it is a small part.

Take a look at the various ways people describe
what work means in their lives. Then spend some time
considering what you want work to mean in your life.

  • I work to eat and to take care of my family. I Work, with a capital ‘W’ on my art!

  • I love working with people and for the first time in my life, I have a job that lets me do that. It’s exciting to be paid for work that doesn’t feel like work!

  • My work is at the center of my life; it’s how I know who I am. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have it.

  • Work is a means to an end. The end is sometimes about work results, but more often it’s about what I can do when I’m not working.

  • As long as I can do work that’s fun with a great group of people, and make enough money to travel, that’s all I need. Traveling is where my passion lies.

Steve Jobs said, Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

We agree, and yet for some people work is a way to support them doing what they truly love. It’s important to keep looking for ways to create a life where you get to do what you love; but don’t insist it all come from paid work.

Some of the most passionate and successful people we know worked in jobs where they contributed their talents and were paid well, but the work that mattered to them most was their art, music, helping the underserved, etc.

You may find your truest work outside of your paid job. Don’t stop looking for ways to do the things you truly, truly love. The world needs your unique combination of skills and strengths! ~ Carpenter Smith Consulting

If you’re struggling to identify what role
you want work to fulfill in your life,
contact us today about our Career Coaching.

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Asking for a Promotion

Many people come into their work lives believing that their managers will advocate on their behalf so all that they need to do to get increasing responsibility is demonstrate their skill and then they’ll be promoted. While this happens sometimes, it’s just not the typical reality; so we encourage our clients to advocate on their own behalf.

In our experience, managers are doing more than ever with fewer resources, and even if they do see that a member of their team is very successful, they may not have the time to advocate for them.

All of that makes sense (no blame intended); but it does suggest that if you feel ready to take on greater responsibility, the ball is in your court to move your agenda forward.

Where do you start if you’re getting
ready to ask for a promotion?

The following three steps can help:

  1. Review your previous formal and informal performance reviews and ensure that you’re seen as contributing to success and that you’ve demonstrated a thoughtful and effective response to any and all performance concerns.
  2. Assess the needs of your team, department, and the organization to identify how you can best contribute to success. You’ll always be more effective in asking for a promotion when you can tie the organization’s success to your increasing influence and impact. For example: Review the strategic plan for your department and for the company as a whole. Then be prepared to talk about how elevating you to the role will increase the success of the department and the company.
  3. Before having the specific promotion conversation with your boss, seed the idea with them and other key stakeholders. For example: You could say something like, “I love what we’re trying to do with [project / initiative / strategy], and I’m excited to contribute to its success. As I assess how to create success going forward, I believe I’d have a greater impact if I moved into a larger role and I’m eager to know your thoughts.”Their responses can give you a great deal of information about how to approach the actual promotion discussion.

Once you’ve completed Step 3, you’ve started the conversation about what it will take for you to move into a role of greater impact and responsibility.

Take action based on what you learned and then return to the conversation from time to time until you believe there is clear evidence that your advancement will contribute to departmental or organizational success.

After having conversations where you’ve reviewed your history and assessed how you can be a solution to the company’s needs, you’re ready to have a discussion about a promotion! You could say something like, “I’d like to ask for a promotion to this new role where, I think we agree, I can be a solution to the team, department, or company.”

Let us know how it goes!

Feeling ready for a promotion but need some
1:1 support to work through the process?
Contact us today about our coaching services.

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Are You A Solution?

In our work with individuals and teams, we’re often approached for help when someone is considering a job change or asking for a promotion. One of the first questions we ask in these conversations is, “How are you a solution for the team, department, or organization?”

When considering a career change or asking for a promotion, you’ll have the greatest success when you consider the fact that organizations look to hire or promote people when they have a pain point or a problem to solve. If the company was fine as is, they wouldn’t have the role available!

So, if you’re considering a next step in your career, ask yourself this same question.

How am I a solution for this team,
department, or organization?

The power of this question is that it forces you to get specific to answer it. It’s not, “How am I a solution for any job?”

You’re asking the question about this specific job, at this point in time, and in this organization. “Am I a solution to their pain points?”

This week spend some time thinking about what you’d be excited to do next in your career and consider how you are, or can become, the solution an organization seeks.

You’ll want to think about the skills and strengths you have that you’re passionate about using, and how your unique combination of those skills and strengths will help you stand out.

We are championing your success!

If you’d like support in thinking about how your
unique combination of skills and strengths
will help you stand out, contact us today.

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Accelerate Your Success

Stepping into a leadership role can be exciting while also intimidating! In our work with new leaders we’re often asked, “What’s the one thing I can do to accelerate my success?”

While there are many things that go into leadership success, there’s one thing that we believe is a game changer, and it often comes as a surprise because it’s seen as passive.

The one thing you can do
to accelerate your leadership success
is to listen deeply to others.

Often, when we say this to new leaders, they’re confused because they tend to think that their new role requires them to tell people what to do and then make sure they do it.

Of course, there are times when that’s exactly what a leader needs to do, but the most profoundly successful leaders have shaped how we here at Carpenter Smith Consulting have come to define leadership:

Leadership is the willingness to influence your world
 and the willingness to be influenced by your world,
regardless of your role or title.

So, yes, it’s important to learn how to influence your world and not just stand back with arms crossed waiting for someone to fix things. You’ll have greater impact as a new leader if you demonstrate that you’re willing to be influenced by those around you. And that all starts with deep listening.

Deep listening means working to understand the perspective of the other person so that you understand their experience to the best of your ability.

Listening and being influenced by the thinking of others is not about giving up your power, it’s about understanding that leadership—at its core—is about aligning people behind a shared vision to move forward toward success.

People who believe you respect and value
their experience and perspective 

will be more apt to work with you to create success.

As a new leader, spend time with your team, your colleagues, and your managers asking them about:

    • their vision for success
    • the obstacles that stand in the way of success
    • their current thinking about how they can get around those obstacles to live closer to their vision

    This will give you an incredible amount of information about what you need to do to create success and to influence them in the process.

    This week, whether you’re a new leader or a seasoned one, notice if you’re leaning too heavily on the influence side of the equation. Consider who you need to listen deeply to and who you need to be influenced by to move the departmental or organizational agenda forward.

    Whether you’re a new manager, a seasoned leader,
    or the owner of your own company, if you’d like support
    to accelerate your success, contact us today
    about our executive coaching.

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Honoring Their Nature

Many of you reported that sharing our puppy-training experiences helped you to more deeply understand how complex and nuanced it is to lead and manage people, and that simplifying it by thinking about puppies helped you in your leadership.

This week, we’re talking about working with
natural behaviors to achieve stellar results.

Again, it’s easier to think about this with dogs because their breeds are so obvious; yet, we humans are as different from one another as dogs of different breeds. As people, it can be hard to remember that our unique inherent natures make us quite diverse.

As you may recall, our model for this series is a young Havanese, a breed that originated in Havana, Cuba, and was bred for sitting on laps and looking cute. They do that well.

At 12–15 pounds, Havanese love their people and are happy to sit and snuggle. Compare that with a Border Collie that typically weighs 31–42 pounds and was bred to control and gather sheep in the UK. If you have a small apartment and a consuming job, you might do better to have a Havanese that will sit easily with you in the evenings, rather than a Border Collie, a working dog, who will be agitated and restless because he or she hasn’t run and worked all day.

Both breeds can be taught to sit with you in the evening while you work, but it will definitely be easier for the Havanese than the Border Collie. The Border Collie, with its energy, stamina, and drive, will often seem to “get in trouble,” even though it’s only doing what is true to its nature—herding others and taking control.

Consider the nature of the individuals on your team
or in your office as you think about how
to help them develop their skills.

When you have a job that calls for attention to detail, consider who has a natural affinity to detail. When you have a job that requires a lot of emotional intelligence, consider someone who does this naturally.

Of course, there will be times when you need to help someone develop a skill that isn’t exactly inherent in their nature. Just remember that they’ll need more practice to develop their skill and, from time to time, they may need to return to basics to get back on track.

You will always be most successful as a leader and manager when you trust that each individual is different. These differences can be the key to success if you take the time to understand them, work with them, and reward them.

We humans are complex with diverse behaviors and abilities.

If you’d like support to create greater team success by working with and honoring your employees’ natural behaviors, let us know.

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Determining Shared Success

Welcome to the second-to-last week in our series, What Puppy Training Can Teach You About Leading and Managing. This week we’re talking about the importance of determining what success looks like and then building toward it.

Moving a puppy toward success is a process using small steps. Consider trying to get a puppy to use a pee pad or waiting to go outside to go.

When dogs are young there are a lot of challenges. They’re physically immature and they don’t really know the cues when they need to go. They live in the moment, so really have to pee when the need arises and don’t have time to make it to the appropriate spot—and they don’t really know that they shouldn’t use a rug or floor as a bathroom.

To begin the process, you need to know what you want as a family. In this case, you want the puppy to go to the back door, bark when it needs to pee, and then do so in the backyard.

Next, identify the small steps that will get you to that behavior. These small steps establish what success looks like for the puppy and moves her toward the desired behavior. But more importantly, all members of the family are working toward this same behavior.

Everyone is on board with the desired outcome of the pup going out the back door to pee in the yard, and begins to help the puppy move in that direction.

Only when you know what success looks like
can you effectively work toward it.

As we write this, we’ve just come from a meeting with an executive team that’s in turmoil. We were asked to help them navigate their challenges and help them get aligned behind a shared vision.

To start that meeting, we asked the 7 team members to spend a few minutes individually writing their answers to the question, “What does success look like on this issue?”

When they were done writing, we had each individual walk to the front of the room and post their answers. The results were stunning in that there was almost no overlap across the team about what success looked like.

Each individual stated their definition of success with clarity and conviction, so there was no shortage of ideas—just no clear way to define what shared success looked like as a team.

Each member of the team was heading in the direction they thought was right, but it wasn’t a shared vision, so they weren’t getting anywhere constructive. It would be like one member of the family taking the puppy out the front door to pee while the other is focusing on getting her out the back door. The poor puppy has no idea where she should pee!

This week, consider the things that you, your team, your department, or your organization are working on and ask yourself, “Do we really have a clear, shared definition of what success looks like?” If not, you’re probably finding it challenging to make headway toward those goals.

Finding the shared vision that can be supported by the whole team is critical to successful behaviors.

If you’re struggling to define the shared vision let us knowWe would be delighted to help you move toward success.

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Recognizing the Good in the Bad

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the similarities between puppy training and leading a team. If you haven’t had a chance to read those previous posts, you can access them here:

There are many levels and nuances to good behaviors and problem behaviors, so we’re going to take a look at these a little closer today.

When a puppy is doing something bad, it usually results in a negative outcome. For example: when a puppy chews on a blanket, the blanket will wind up with a hole and the puppy will wind up with a tummy ache. Most people would agree this is a bad result.

As we’ve mentioned, good and problem behaviors are a little more nuanced with humans.

It’s challenging and messy (and possible!),
to get positive results even when the behavior is “bad”.

Let us explain. We worked with a client who had a high-performing staff member named Julie. Julie’s behavior was often easygoing and collaborative, but when met with a deadline she kicked into high stress, anxiety, and was resistant to input.

Julie’s boss came to us and said that despite offering her guidance to “not take it so seriously,” she seemed to get more anxious and impatient.

We all have different ways of working, and this woman’s method was to put all of the pressure on herself to accomplish tasks perfectly. When approached by her boss with suggestions and solutions, the situation escalated instead of becoming less stressful.

In this scenario, the output of the work isn’t being called into question—no chewed-up blanket. In fact, the finished work is quite good. What we’re looking at is the negative behaviors that kick in while she’s doing good work.

One option is to ignore bad behaviors when she’s on a deadline trusting that she’ll sort out her level of anxiety on her own—she gets to be anxious and stressed as long she’s getting the job done well and she isn’t sucking others into her stress.

If the quality of her work declines or if she’s keeping others from being successful because she’s imposing her stress onto them, you’ll need to intervene.

Another option is to praise her during those moments of relative minimum stress so that she starts to notice when she’s less stressed. Saying something like, “I admire your devotion to the project. You seem to have a little headspace at the moment, so let’s connect and see how I can support you.”

She may not recognize when her stress levels are on the rise. People can often disconnect themselves from intense feelings and, as a result, they may not be fully aware of their impact on others.

One of the hardest parts of managing others is to know when to intervene and when to let people work things out on their own.

Humans tend to provide feedback around negative behaviors when, in fact, providing feedback around positive behaviors is far more productive in the long run.

We humans are complex and messy! And there are, of course, many more nuances. If you’re finding that you’d like some support in developing your team, let us know.

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Keep Noticing Good Behaviors

These past three weeks, we’ve been sharing a series called What Puppy Training Can Teach You About Leading and Managing. We began the first week with an overview. The second week we discussed Rewarding the Right Behaviors, and last week we discussed Ignoring Problem Behaviors.

This week, we’ll focus on another powerful learning that leaders and managers can take from puppy training—growing in your ability to notice the behaviors you want to reward.

When you first get a puppy, it’s easy to be very attentive since you’re working hard to enjoy them while managing biting, wetting and soiling the house, chewing on your furniture, shoes, and rugs. It’s pretty clear what behaviors you want to reward and those you want to ignore during those first weeks.

As time goes on, you start to relax your vigilance and let yourself get involved with the various demands of your life. It’s at this point that some of the more destructive behaviors happen—not because the puppy has changed but because you’ve relaxed and have turned your attention to other things.

Similarly, when you’re working with an employee on a specific behavior, you’re at first very vigilant and clear about what you’re trying to reward and ignore; but over time, you go back to your work and forget to keep tabs on their new behavior.

When you want someone to change a behavior you need to continue to give them information about their success, otherwise they’ll revert back to old patterns.

Habits are tough to break,
even when we decide we want to break them.

So, if you find that an employee was at first doing quite well with a behavior change and then things went south after several weeks, start paying attention once again. Acknowledge the individual when they’re doing the behavior you want.

Rewarding the right behavior means looking for it,
and not just looking for what’s wrong.

As we’ve said in earlier posts, our brains are hardwired to see what’s wrong; that’s just biology. Therefore, teaching yourself to keep your eyes open for what’s working—noticing behaviors that lead to success—takes discipline and patience.

This week, revisit the behavior changes you established a couple of weeks ago and check back in.

    • Has the change continued?
    • Could you offer more acknowledgment to keep the change on track?

Don’t be stingy with your praise. When someone is doing something well, go all out and share your enthusiasm for their success!

We know that all of this is much more nuanced
in real life, so if you’d like support in
creating greater success in your team,
contact us today.

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