Running a business with a ‘growth mindset’

Brent Szalay

Firstly, I want to congratulate you. You’ve already stepped outside your comfort zone and made the decision to establish your own business! The decision to do so, comes with a new set of responsibilities that a university degree likely didn’t teach you to master. Many of us experience what’s known as ‘imposter syndrome,’ lacking confidence or perhaps feeling scared about not having the skillset (or know-how) that running a successful business requires. This fear can stop us from progressing our potential and achieving the growth we desire.

I recently sat down with Dr Marli Watt (Executive Coach), to find out how to go beyond our comfort zone, move past our limiting fears and take the critical first steps towards a new learning journey of being a highly regarded ‘business’ owner, not just a reputable professional in your industry.

Where does the journey typically begin? Well, you’re the Bookkeeper, HR Director, Marketer, Office Manager and more. And, to keep your practice on trajectory for growth, you’re thrown in to learning and juggling this huge array of skills on the job. For many of the clients I work with, they don’t enjoy the feeling of entering ‘the unknown’ – and I see many stall and avoid taking ‘the next required step’ because it’s all too overwhelming. It’s almost easier to get stuck in client and/or customer work and put it off progress for another 6 months.

Executive Coach, Dr Marli Watt, says it is useful to remember that “fears, anxiety and worries are very common for all of us”. Fear is an emotion caused by a perceived threat and is useful in an evolutionary sense, as it is intended to keep us safe. However, it can be triggered by ‘the unknown’ and in situations “where we’re telling stories to ourselves and predicting the future”. Perhaps you too, have experienced what many of us do; your internal voice second guessing yourself? When this fear takes hold it can keep us from taking a new step. This is how we end up in the comfort zone.

“We’re wired to stay safe and ultimately to stay comfortable”, explains Dr Watt. Fear is a powerful emotion that can stop us from growing, but moving past it, empowers us to take the first step towards upskilling and achieving progress towards our goals.

First, form your ‘growth mindset’ foundation

Dr Watt recommends that you recognise running your business as up taking a new skillset (aside from your profession) and that you are undergoing ‘a new learning cycle’. Learning cycles have four phases:

  1. unconsciously incompetent: when you don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. consciously incompetent: when you develop an awareness of a competence gap. Perhaps you know you want to build out your team, but you don’t know how to go about finding the right talent.
  3. consciously competent: when you have learned new skills, such as how to go about Marketing your business, but you need to think (with considerable effort) about them, to start using them.
  4. unconsciously competent: when you’ve achieved competency and deploying the skills requires no thought. Perhaps you’re a strong people Manager, for instance.

As a business owner, you’ve been through all these stages. Through your years of getting to where you are now; whether it’s work experience, university degrees or courses. With your business know-how, however, you may be at the first and second stages. Rest assured, with time and investment in your business skills and personal development as a leader, you‘ll move through these four learning stages and be less ‘fear’ trigger prone.

Moving through your fear

Being a business owner is going to challenge you in many ways and you may need to examine your own values and beliefs. To move through the fear, Dr Watt suggests:

  • Consciously improving competence: Investing in yourself and your skillset capability to help you to move through fear.
  • Reframing failure: Adopting a belief that failure doesn’t exist and reframing unsuccessful outcomes as feedback opportunities instead.
  • Developing a growth mindset: The empowering news is nothing is fixed (all behaviours can be learned). So, rather than telling yourself, “Oh, I can’t do that” or “That’s not me”, say to yourself “I can learn how to do that”.
  • Focus on one small step: Limiting self-belief can stop us from advancement. The relieving reality is you don’t need to master every skill at once – Ease up and take one small step at a time.

The great news is, as soon as you start to take small steps outside of your comfort zone, you’ll quickly find that you have fast-tracked your pathway to progress. And, while running your business can be scary, keep an open mind that you can upskill with confidence (by investing in self-development, coach, or an experienced Leader who has past the phase where you’re currently stuck).

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