team development

How Can Leaders Develop Their Teams Growth Mindset?

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One of the roles of a leader is to “create more leaders, not more followers”.

On so many occasions, I witness leaders within organisations “telling” their staff what to do and how to do it, rather than empowering staff to make their own choices, experience their own mistakes (and learn from them) and take accountability and responsibility. Instead they are often led by the nose so they are never able to make an independent decision with confidence.

What I also regularly observe is that when leaders provide feedback and praise, what they often do is reward “ability” rather than reward “effort”. But what does this do to the mindset of their staff?

I was reading Carol Dweck’s famous book “Mindset” again last night and one of the experiments she conducted and explains in her book resonated with me. She posed the question, “If people have such potential to achieve, how can they gain faith in their potential?”

The issue is that when we praise ability in order to convey that they “have what it takes”, we keep people focused on a fixed mindset. It’s recognised that people with a fixed mindset already focus too much on their ability: The issue posed is whether this kind of praise actually encourages people. To find out, Dweck conducted a study.

Dweck took hundreds of students and gave each student a set of 10 fairly difficult problems from a nonverbal IQ test.

When finished – the students were praised.

The first group were told– “Wow, you must be really smart at this”

The second group were told – “”Wow, You must have worked really hard” (they were not made to believe they had a special gift, they were praised for doing what it takes to succeed).

Both groups were exactly equal to begin with. However right after the praise, they began to differ.

The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset. In fact, when they were given a challenging new task to perform which they could learn from – they rejected the opportunity. They didn’t want to do anything which could expose their flaws and call their talent into question.

In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90% wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.

Next, the students were given some hard new problems, which they did not do so well on. The ability students now thought they were not that smart after all. If success had meant they were intelligent, then less than success meant they were deficient.

But – the effort students simply thought that difficult meant they had to “apply more effort”. They didn’t see it as a failure, and they didn’t think it reflected on their intellect.

Now what about their enjoyment when completing the problems? After the initial success, everyone loved the problems. But after the more difficult problems, the ability students said it wasn’t fun anymore. However… the effort students still loved the problems and many of them in fact said the harder problems were the most fun.

Dweck then looked at the student’s performance. After the experience with difficult tasks, the performance of the ability-praised students plummeted, even after they were given more of the easier problems. They had lost faith in their ability. However the effort students showed better and better performance. They basically used the hard problems to sharpen their skills, so when they returned to the easier ones, they were way ahead.

Since this was an IQ test, Dweck actually concludes that you might say praising ability lowered the student’s IQs and that praising their effort raised them.

Given these insights, how could you utilise this knowledge as a leader with your staff?

Want to know more about praising effort so as to develop a growth mindset and mental toughness in your team. Send me an email at to enquire about building your team’s potential.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Wellbeing Strategist, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing. You can find her at or

Increase the Mental Toughness of Your Team.

Developing team potential has been a key component of business strategy for as long as we can remember and it features widely in leadership and management theory and practise.

It is interesting however that often many senior management teams who decide they want a team working culture developed within their organisation provide the least compelling example of team work.

We recognise the significant benefits of a highly effective team. They are committed to achieving goals and they accomplish complex tasks using each other’s strengths to cover any weaknesses within the team. They have high levels of performance and coach each other to assist with problem solving and innovation. Mental Toughness can have a big impact not only on the performance of the organisation itself, but on how team working and team building are developed.

Mental Toughness has been defined as the quality which determines in large part how people effectively deal with challenge, stressors and pressure (Clough and Strycharczyk 2012). In the 4Cs model the overall Mental Toughness is a product of 4 pillars:

·        Challenge – seeing challenge as an opportunity

·        Confidence – having high levels of self-belief

·        Commitment – being able to stick to tasks

·        Control – believing that you can control your own destiny.

It can be very effective for an organisation to set about improving the Mental Toughness of individuals within their organisation. However just because you have a group of Mentally Tough individuals does not mean you will have a Mentally Tough team or organisation. The challenge is to support the development of Mental Toughness across the team. An organisation needs to consider organisational development and culture but also team working behaviour. A mentally tough individual typically implies a degree of personal achievement, a tendency to be “thick skinned” and focused on performance, but a group of individuals with these qualities does not mean effective team work miraculously occurs.

There are a number of actions a team of Mentally Tough individuals can adopt that will enhance their capacity to work as an effective team. The key is to enhance self-awareness and the impact of actions on others to move from individual to group success. Consider potential actions under each of the 4Cs:


·        Review and prioritise work together.

·        Communicate with each other often and set mutual goals.

·        Recognise strengths and weaknesses within the team and delegate accordingly.

·        “Eat the elephant” and break down tasks into small manageable chunks.

·        Recognise the need for the team to practice balance and recharge as a team             when required.


·        Recognise each other’s strengths and use these accordingly.

·        Don’t dwell on or overgeneralise mistakes.

·        Manage any identified over-confidence.

·        Give feedback which leads to high performance – (constructive feedback is just         an oxymoron).

·        Give support when confidence is knocked.

·        Recognise mistakes are just “learns”.


·        Give positive feedback and praise often and recognise individual contributions.

·        Review resources and energy and assess how they can be best utilised.

·        Accept some tasks can’t be completed.

·        Identify sources of team motivation.

·        Agree on mutual goals and objectives.

·        Don’t be afraid to ask each other for help.

·        Listen to each other and ask lots of proactive questions.


·        Accept that setbacks can be a normal occurrence.

·        Allow individuals the time and space they need to recover from setbacks at their         own pace.

·        Work as a team to determine what is outside of your control and review steps to         be taken to circumvent the issues identified.

·        Agree on a mutual plan of action.


If a team is to be effective, it must have a shared sense of purpose, effective ways of working together despite individual differences, willingness to work together toward mutual effectiveness, personal independence and a collective identity.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at or

Ensuring The Performance Of Your Team

Ensuring The Performance of Your Team

The role of a leader is to continuously assist their team to improve performance in the areas of quality and productivity. But do teams always have the right “culture” and environment to assist them to maximise this potential, as all too often a team will fail to capitalise these efforts, energies and investments made in improvement.

So how does a leader develop this culture? A good leader needs to recognise, understand and manage the issues confronting the people they lead. They need to understand what issues impact their individual and collective performance. A high performing team is the ultimate goal of any leader, but this will not be achieved if they do not embrace the thoughts and needs of their team members and seek to take them with them on a shared vision. A leader needs to recognise however that the needs and demands of a team constantly evolve and shift. If a leader is to attract, and harness the potential of team members, they must be willing to do what is required.

So is it possible to develop a team culture and environment that people want to be a part of, a culture of mutual benefit, clear accountability and results? Sounds like the Holy Grail doesn’t it? But there are some clear steps to assist any leader respond to the potential changes that are needed to positively challenge a team to achieve greater performance and productivity.

Consider these opportunities:

1.   Understand that the team must be continually developed. A team is constantly shifting and never stands still; it is either shifting forward or moving back. As a leader, your role is to know where your team is today and where it is heading and adapt your style given the needs of the ever changing environment. A leader cannot lead in the same way at all times. They must assess their team’s needs as well as the needs of the individuals within the team and adapt their style accordingly. 

2.   As a leader, have you set the vision for your team? Do you have a group of individuals working toward their own individual goals, or do you have a team working toward a singular mutual goal and outcome? When a team works together, they enrich each other’s jobs, build skills, make work more meaningful, build motivation and improve efficiency and productivity. A strong leader demonstrates and communicates a clear direction to the team. 

3.   A leader manages dissatisfaction proactively. Dissatisfaction can occur for a number of reasons, including conflict between staff, no focus on continuous improvement, overwhelming work load or a team feeling out of their depth. This is where the greatest opportunity lives for a leader to assist. By LISTENING to the team’s needs and proactively managing issues, differences that are revealed through discussion can provide significant insight and provide opportunities for improvement. 

4.   As a team starts to move toward productivity and mutual trust, leadership also needs to evolve toward coaching rather than training and mentoring. A leader needs to demonstrate trust to their team and develop their self-confidence. Often the introduction of a coaching culture is valuable to assist team members to take on a problem solving approach and greater independence, rather than always seeking out guidance.

Team synergy means a team working together with mutual trust in each other and their leader. Individuals strive to embrace challenge and are self-confident. How are you capitalising on your greatest asset?


4 Powerful Approaches to Increase Your Mental Strength

4 Powerful Approaches To Increase Your Mental Strength

Psychology often focuses on maintaining our mental health — but what is not discussed as often is our mental strength. Mental strength or mental toughness is our ability to regulate our own emotions, manage our thoughts, and behave in a positive manner, despite the prevailing circumstances. Developing mental strength is about finding the courage to live according to your values and being bold enough to create your own definition of success.

Developing mental strength requires hard work and commitment. It’s about establishing healthy habits and choosing to devote your time and energy to self-improvement.

Although it’s easier to feel mentally strong when life seems simple, true mental strength actually reaches its potential when we are under stress. Choosing to develop skills that increase your mental strength is the best way to prepare for life’s inevitable obstacles. You can “wait for the storm to pass, or you can learn how to dance in the rain”

Here are some approaches to get you started building your mental strength:

1. Evaluate Your Core Beliefs

We all tend to develop core beliefs about ourselves, our lives and the world in general. Core beliefs develop over time and largely depend upon our past experiences. Our core beliefs influence your thoughts, your behaviour and your emotions.

Identify and evaluate your core beliefs. Look for beliefs that are black and white, and then find exceptions to the rule. Can you start by turning your black thoughts to a shade of grey and gradually lighten them even further. Very few things in life are “always” or “never” true. Modifying core beliefs requires purposeful intention and hard work, but it can change the entire course of your life.

2. Be Wise About How You Expend Your Mental Energy

Wasting time and brain power ruminating about things you can’t control drains you quickly. The more you think about negative problems that you can’t solve, the less energy you’ll have left over for the things that actually are within your circle of influence. For example, sitting and worrying about a big presentation you have to deliver is not helpful. Worrying about it won’t prevent the deadline. You can, however, choose to prepare for the presentation.

Save your mental energy for productive tasks, such as solving problems or setting goals. Consider drawing two large circles, one within the other. Write down all the things about the issue you can control in one circle and all the things outside of your control in the other. Then look to see where you are spending most of your thinking time. Then try shifting your focus to where you can reach the greatest outcome. The more you practice expending your mental energy wisely, the more it will become a habit.

3. Replace Negative Thoughts

Increasing your awareness of your thinking habits is extremely beneficial in building your mental strength. Exaggerated, negative thoughts, such as, “I can never do anything right,” or “I’m useless”, hold you back from reaching your full potential. Catch your negative thoughts before they spiral out of control and impact on your behaviour.

Identify your negative thoughts and then replace them with thoughts that are more productive. They don’t always have to be extremely positive, but they can be more realistic. A more balanced thought may be, “I may have some weaknesses, but I also have plenty of strengths”, or “I took away some opportunities to learn from that experience”. Managing your thoughts requires constant vigilance, but the process can be very influential in helping you become your best possible self.

4. Practice Tolerating Discomfort

Being mentally strong doesn’t mean you don’t experience emotions. Mental strength is about accepting your feelings without being controlled by them.

Mental strength also involves an understanding of when it makes sense to behave contrary to your emotions. For example, if you experience anxiety that prevents you from trying new things, try stepping out of your comfort zone to see what you can achieve. Tolerating uncomfortable emotions takes practice, but it becomes easier as your confidence grows.

Developing mental strength is a work in progress. There is always room for improvement. You can reflect on your progress each day and consider new opportunities for improvement.

If you would like to improve your mental strength, contact Michelle Bakjac at Bakjac Consulting on 0412047590 or