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Sharing Failures and Growth Mindsets

Posted: 26 April 2022

Mike George, Partner, shares an experience of a failure, and why having a growth mindset is so important

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Sharing Failures and Growth Mindsets

I am an avid fan of Carol Dweck and her concept of Fixed and Growth Mindsets. This is detailed in her book – Mindsets … which is required reading at Chartwell. The basic premise is that there are different ways that people view their capability / skill level. A person with a “Fixed” mindset, views their capability as predetermined and static; while a person with a “Growth” mindset views their capability as fluid and evolving.

This difference in perspective can lead people to work hard to improve if they believe the hard work will result in the improvement of a particular skill. Alternatively, it can also lead a person to stop trying if they believe that some people just have innate abilities while others don’t.

As a parent, I was thrilled when my oldest son (9 year-old at the time) came home with a paper detailing the difference between fixed and growth mindsets. I feel that this is such an important concept to introduce early and continue to reinforce throughout one’s life. As leaders, I believe it is especially important to share our failures along with our successes. If we portray ourselves as someone who never makes mistakes, we are not role modeling the type of mindsets that I suspect we all want our organizations to adopt.

I wanted to share a particular experience that I had as an example of one of life’s humbling reminders that there is more to learn. I had one such reminder when our home dishwasher stopped working. My wife suggested we call a repair technician to fix it, while I saw it as an appropriate and fun challenge to test my problem-solving skills. After all, as a professional problem-solver, I take pride in my ability to tackle complex problems.

As the reader, I suspect you know where this is headed. Here are the highlights:

The touchpad would not light up or respond when pressed. I started by checking to make sure the dishwasher had power using a voltage detector. After confirming that, I deduced there was one of two problems. Either the touchpad or the control module was faulty. I ordered both to be safe.

The parts arrived 8 days later and I eagerly replaced them … only to learn the same problem persisted. I had spent enough time “fixing” the dishwasher and scheduled the repair technician (5 day lead time). The technician arrived and used a voltage multimeter to determine there was insufficient power going to the dishwasher. This either meant that there was a problem with the house electrical system, or, the actual problem … the electrical plug was loose and needed to be pushed all the way in. The technician was kind enough to only charge me for “customer education” as he left me with my fully functional and now fully plugged-in dishwasher.

My mistake had been that I checked for the presence of electricity rather than the specific voltage. This why it is important to be specific when “Defining the ideal and actual conditions” as part of the Fault Tree Modelling approach that we use at Chartwell.

I share this example as a reminder that regardless of where each of us are in our careers, there will always be room to grow and develop. Lifelong learning is important to us as I know it is to many of the companies we work with. Remember to share both your successes and your failures, and role model the behaviors you want to see from others in your organizations.


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