In times of stress and uncertainty (i.e., 2020), it’s human nature to hunker down and wait it out, until we can safely return to what we once knew.
While it may be human nature, it can be a disaster for businesses to operate with that Jeanette McMurtry calls a “fixed mindset.”
“When nothing is certain, it seems certain that the first choice of hunkering down makes the most sense: Hold on to what you have so you don’t go under when the ship starts to sink. After all, playing it safe is better than risking it all,” McMurty writes in Publishing Executive.
This mindset, while it may seem safe, means your business is more likely to fail during times of rapid change. Instead, it’s necessary to have a “growth mindset” to carry your company through.
“Historically, the companies that succeed through tumultuous and uncertain times are those with leaders who have a common characteristic associated with a growth mindset: psychological resilience,” McMurty continues.
So what does it really mean to have psychological resilience? In a nutshell, it’s the ability to remain calm in a crisis and move on from that crisis without long-term damage. “Grace under fire” might be a good way to talk about it; making smart decisions that don’t hinder your chance for recovery.
While some people seem to have a natural tendency toward this kind of resilience, many (self-included) believe it is a skill, like any other, that can be developed. In other words, you can train your brain to help you achieve a growth mindset, something that will undoubtedly make you a better leader and more likely to succeed no matter what comes your way.
“An article in the March 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review, Roaring Out of Recession, reviewed winners and losers from three previous recessions – 1980, 1990, and 2000 – and found that businesses lead by a growth mindset rose above competitors substantially,” McMurty continues.
The study shows that growth-oriented companies did three key things during the recession:
- kept staffing levels the same and even added staff in some cases;
- kept their marketing programs alive; and
- invested for long-term growth.
McMurty shares a powerful example of the fixed vs. growth mindset and how they play out:
“Office Depot cut staff by 6% in order to cut losses for the near term. Staples hired more staff and looked for opportunities to improve operational efficiencies and invest for the long term,” she writes. “As a result, Staples’ sales were doubled at the end of the 2000 recession and were substantially higher than Office Depot’s sales, which were billions ahead of Staples before the recession.”
Many of us know this from personal experience: The brands that maintain a strong presence while others are backing down benefit from the lower noise level. This allows brands to reposition themselves or launch a product with less competition. If yours is the only mail in the box, it will undoubtedly have a better chance of being read. And we were warned this spring not to sit this one out.
At Freeport we kept a firm growth mindset during the last recession — investing in technology and equipment to position our company for the future — and we’re staying resilient this time around too. Believe in your business’ ability to reinvent itself, and your team’s ability to innovate. Yes, these are strange days, but if your fix your eyes on growth and maintaining the customers you have now, you’ll be that much better off when whatever happens next does happen.