“It took me a lifetime” -Pablo Picasso
Many studies have been done on Mastery versus Performance Mindset. A new study by Stanford University, University of Pittsburgh, and Duke University suggests that our orientation toward learning is powerful enough to change the environment of those we lead. The study talks about our learning and leading orientation in relationship to motivation, feedback, and willingness to take risks. As leaders, our learning orientation impacts not just ourselves and our own career path but the day to day experience of those we lead.
Leaders with a performance orientation tend to avoid challenges that may show their shortcomings. In instances where they are motivated it may be because they are guaranteed victory. When faced with obstacles, those of us who are performance oriented may give up easily.
Conversely, those of us with a mastery orientation tend to find motivation to embrace uncertain challenges on a daily basis. Effort is seen as a path to mastery versus a burden. When faced with obstacles, leaders with a mastery orientation are motivated to persist through the setbacks that arise.
Question for Reflection:
When you look at the past year, with all of the unique challenges in the world, would you say you had a performance or mastery orientation in relationship to motivating yourself and others?
Feedback is often seen as threatening in leaders with a performance orientation. Often constructive feedback is ignored or brushed off. Performance oriented individuals are often focused on doing better than their counterparts therefore seeing constructive feedback as a failure and a lack of ability versus an opportunity for growth.
In leaders with a mastery orientation, feedback is seen as opportunity. They see constructive feedback as important to mastery and they welcome the chance to deepen their understanding and improve further in relation to their goal. The exciting thing is that our individual frame of mind or orientation, when receiving feedback, programs how we receive feedback over time. We have the power to choose anew each time we receive feedback. When we are open to growth and feedback we achieve more for longer periods of time than those that feel threatened by feedback and plateau early out of fear of failure.
Question for Reflection:
When you look at the past year, with all of the unique challenges in the world, would you say you had a performance or mastery orientation in relationship to giving and receiving feedback?
Individuals with a performance orientation are more likely to lead and follow others who are risk-averse. The performance orientation increases competition and singularity, and therefore avoids opportunities to learn from others and to put themselves out there, when the chances of success are unknown.
Individuals with a mastery orientation encourage environments for themselves and others that support “safe failure” versus those that are “fail safe.” Mastery is about engagement and collaboration and these leaders find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.
Question for Reflection:
When you look at the past year, with all of the unique challenges in the world, would you say you had a performance or mastery orientation in relationship to your own willingness to take risks? How about your willingness to encourage others to grow in their ability to take risks?
Which orientation is right for you?
“Psychologists tend to agree that a mastery orientation is highly adaptive and carries the most positive qualities, including perseverance, seeking out challenges and a desire to learn.
A performance orientation can also yield positive outcomes – good grades and job promotions, for example – but at a detrimental cost, some psychologists say.
People who are focused on outperforming others and looking smart tend to be more anxious and to worry more.” (Manuel London and James Smither, Feedback Orientation, Feedback Culture, and the Longitudinal Performance Management Process.)
How long is a lifetime, as Picasso wrote? Much longer if we orient ourselves toward a growth, mastery, benefit, (or whatever else you want to call it), mindset more often than not. Perhaps it is not either/or in terms of mindset but more of a gentle calibration toward that which aligns most with the leader we are and the leader we wish to become.
“Everyday leaders recognize that to genuinely contribute, we need to cultivate a mindful awareness of how our inner lives and the world out there can become partners in each other’s flourishing.” -Ash Buchanan
A commitment to learn and help learn while seeking to find what is right with people by coming together collectively to better ourselves, our communities, and our world … Now that is an exciting perspective from which to welcome 2021 and the much-needed new year that is burgeoning with hope and possibility.