How do you feel when someone gives you feedback at work? Are you open to feedback, or do you feel defensive? What happens when you have challenges at work? Do you face them head-on, or do you avoid the situation?
As Assistants, we often come up against misconceptions about the role even if we know we must have advanced skills for C-suite Executive Assistants.
How do you feel when someone doesn’t value your contribution? Do you see it as an opportunity to educate those around you, or does it affect your confidence?
The answers to these questions will indicate how much you fit into a ‘growth mindset’ or a ‘fixed mindset’. This post will look at how Assistants can establish a ‘growth mindset’, and we will follow Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and her 2013 TED talk on the subject.
So that’s start by looking at the difference between a ‘fixed mindset’ and a ‘growth mindset’. Here is Carol Dweck’s description of someone with a fixed mindset:
I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves— in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?
For Assistants, we are often told that we have to be perfect and work in a high-pressurised environment where mistakes can not be made.
Assistants are not afforded the luxury of failure. However, without fault and the room to make mistakes, how are we expected to grow in our careers and roles?
We must be given a licence to learn and space to grow. Here is Carol Dweck’s take on a growth mindset:
There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.
Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.
Many Assistants focus on getting all the answers right. Of course, this is understandable. We are in a role that does require organisational skills, remembering lots of detail and making our Executive’s success.
We do have to get a lot right.
But, if we want to expand our knowledge, do better and be better.
We have to stretch ourselves and be in a position where we might potentially get things wrong. How do we go about creating a ‘growth mindset’?
It isn’t easy because many of us are happy to stay in our comfort zone, knowing what we are doing, and we do it well.
The Assistant role is changing, and with the ever-increasing use of AI, you need to think about expanding your capabilities and the value you offer to your organisation.
Also, you deserve to thrive in your role, learn and grow.
Do your Executive and organisation cultivate a growth culture?
So, where do we start to develop an Assistant growth mindset? Ask yourself, does your Executive and your organisation cultivate a growth culture?
If you are moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, you need to feel like you are in a fertile environment where ideas and creativity thrive, where feedback is about improving your work yourself.
You should work with an Executive who also has a growth mindset, showing that they are vulnerable and open about their failures.
Working with an authentic Executive who doesn’t expect unachievable levels of perfectionism from their Assistants will lead you to feel more inspired, motivated and able to challenge yourself.
Don’t be afraid of feedback.
You should always be asking for feedback, every day and in every way.
It doesn’t surprise me that so many Assistants avoid asking for feedback. We have busy Executives. Taking 5 minutes out of their day to ask for feedback seems too much. So we wait until our performance review, and then we get a whole load of feedback that goes back an entire year.
The process is also tied in with our salary and remuneration package. Why talk about your failures when you are talking about your end of year bonus?
It is for this exact reason you should ask for consistent feedback. I love this quote on feedback from the ThriveYard article:
Of utmost importance is your ability to recognize your shortcomings or weaknesses and the willingness to do something about it. At times we might have our internal sirens blaring warning us that we are headed on the wrong path and feedback serves as a red traffic light or a stop sign to alert us that we are headed down the wrong path. Demonstrate the desire and understanding to change course and to move to the correct road. Even though at the moment of impact, receiving critical feedback can sting since it feels bad to be told that you don’t measure up, yet we need the reality check to jump-start us back into realignment. Look at the big picture on what went wrong and ask yourself what you could have done better and what you can do better moving forward.
Define your success
For Assistants who want to develop a growth mindset, you have to stop comparing yourself to other people in your organisation and those around you. You have to define what success means to you. You work with Executive’s who, for all intense and purposes, successful people. We must have advanced skills for C-suite Executive Assistants.
You should learn from them but don’t compare yourself to them. You have your path, and growth for you will be different from other people.
You need to have confidence in yourself and your abilities. This comes from looking at your day to day successes, what did you achieve, how did you grow, and what did you learn? What was the small victory that led to change?
View challenges as opportunities
Last but not least, I think the Assistant Growth Mindset can be achieved when you view challenges as opportunities.
Relish opportunities to learn and improve in your role. If someone doesn’t see your value, you don’t need to seek their approval. Instead, show them through all of the fantastic work you do that you are more than ‘just’ an Assistant.