What is a Growth Mindset? A Fireside Chat with Natalie Lihacova, Co-founder of Mr. Simon

The Growth Mindset – Why is this Skill in Such High Demand These Days?

Qualities like Growth Mindset, Adaptability, Creativity, Initiative, and similar soft skills have become increasingly important in job descriptions across various industries. These skills reflect an individual's ability to thrive in dynamic and rapidly changing work environments.

The prevalence of these skills in job descriptions can vary depending on the industry, job role, and company culture. Generally, though, these skills are sought after in positions that require problem-solving, collaboration, innovation, and the ability to navigate uncertainty.

Understanding the Growth vs. the Fixed Mindset

One of the best ways to understand the Growth Mindset and how it works, is to first explore the Fixed Mindset. This is the belief that the ability to learn and improve is limited and cannot be meaningfully developed. We’ve all heard the expression “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This is an example of how a Fixed Mindset thinks about learning and improving.

This view, however, is not just about the effects of aging. People with this type of mindset cannot see themselves as being able to grow and improve regardless of their age or their level of work and life experiences. They may hesitate to step forward and take on projects and challenges out of a fear of personal failure or of not being able to live up to the expectations of others.

Now that we have set the stage by telling you what the Fixed Mindset is we are going to delve into the concept of the Growth Mindset; what it means and how it differs from the fixed mindset, how it is developed, how you can navigate its challenges, learn from your failures, and reach your full potential.

The Growth Mindset and Success - A Fireside Chat with Natalie Lihacova

Today, I am meeting with Natalie Lihacova, Co-founder, and CEO of Mr. Simon and a strong advocate for helping those in job transition find their next great career opportunity.

SW: “Good morning, Natalie, it is my pleasure to be speaking to you about the need to develop a growth mindset and how it helps one to be a better more confident job seeker and continue on to be the employee that companies want to retain and reward."

NL: “Thanks, Stuart, for the opportunity to discuss this important topic. The development of a growth mindset gives a person the confidence to accept a difficult task and succeed in whatever endeavor they take on. Whether it is finding your next job, excelling in your current position, or moving up to the next level, a growth mindset will help you to achieve your goals.

“Although I don’t consider myself an expert in the area of the Growth Mindset, I strongly believe in the concept that an individual’s talents and capabilities can grow over time. Take me as an example. I have always considered myself quite an open-minded person, continually in search of “my new self.” I have held a number of positions during my career, always keeping an eye out for the next great job or business opportunity. At the same time, I don’t neglect my personal life. I love taking on things that are personally satisfying to me.

“My career so far, reflects this concept. I started off as a secretary for a literary journal, served as a language interpreter, worked in IT, started my own software engineering business, founded Mr. Simon and am heading up a team of software engineers that serves a large corporate client.

“Along the way, and on a more personal level, I have acted in musical theater, sung in a choir (while also serving as its director), raised a wonderful son (of whom I am very proud), and am currently intensely studying in several areas including digital product management, talent development, career consultancy, ChatGPT prompt engineering, piano improvisation and learning German.

“I attribute all that I have accomplished (and continue to accomplish) to keeping an open mind and always looking to grow and develop. I look on my life as a kind of a spiral, rather than a circle. All knowledge I have acquired in previous jobs and experiences prove very handy at some point later. For example – my choir leadership experience taught me team and people management skills. My journal secretary experience taught me to pay attention to detail.

“I have always thought of myself as something of an introvert which has taught me to listen to people, to engage them in conversations more, to let them shine. In that way, I stay more in the background where I can learn from their ideas and contributions and grow from the experiences of others.

“By the way, Stuart, can you think any examples from your experience in which you saw yourself grow in this way?”

SW: “Natalie, this might serve as an example of how this type of growth happened for me. Early in my career, I taught developmentally disabled children. They were both wonderful - and at times - difficult to work with. From this experience I learned patience and tolerance and developed strong listening skills to help me better understand the issues they were dealing with. When I later moved into the world of business, I found that the skills I learned from my teaching experiences enabled me to better recognize the challenges and problems my colleagues, customers and even my bosses faced and how to help resolve them.”

NL: “Thanks Stuart, that’s a great example of how one’s mindset grows.”

SW: “OK, let’s get to our basic question. What are the components of the Growth Mindset?”

Components of A Growth Mindset

Author's Note: During our chat, Natalie touched on all six of the following components of a growth mindset: Overcoming your biggest enemy - fear, Exploration mode, Ambitious and goal-oriented, Embracing new challenges, Learning from failure, and Internal motivation. Be sure to look for each of these terms during our conversation.

NL: “I believe the main driver, the main component is the desire and will to rise above your own fears. Let me tell you a story I call Face Your Spiders to help illustrate what I mean.

"When I was a child, I wanted to be brave, strong, and independent and that is how I wanted others to see me, but most of all I wanted to prove it to myself. There was one thing that I was really scared of – SPIDERS – and I knew that as long as I was scared of them, I would not grow to be what I wanted to be. While playing in the yard with my friends, I saw a really big, scary spider and my first instinct was to run and scream like crazy, just like I always did. But this time I decided to face my fears – FACE MY SPIDERS! I did the craziest thing, I picked it up in my hand and showed it to the other kids, to show them how strong and brave I was. It was a hard thing to do. But you know what? No matter how scary that experience was, the reward that came with it was absolutely worth it. It was an incredible Feeling of Freedom. It’s the best feeling ever – to break free from your strongest fear."

SW: “That’s a great story and really gets to the point. What are some other components?”

NL: “I would say another component is EXPLORATION – this is very important. The desire to make every new day exciting and interesting. Keep searching, examining, and probing every new thing to come along. It keeps your interest up and helps you in so many ways. One thing I cannot stand is BORING. Once I’ve learned something and I can repeat it without much effort, I feel the urge to move on to something not yet tried.

BEING AMBITIOUS AND GOAL-ORIENTED is another component of the Growth Mindset. This will point your explorative mind in the right direction – the one that can be your North Star and will make you feel proud and worthy on your way towards it.

“Other components include EMBRACING NEW CHALLENGES, which is a big part of learning and growing. Taking on and meeting challenges sharpens the mind and keeps you prepared to take whatever next steps come along. Also the ability to LEARN FROM FAILURE. We all have failed at something in our personal or work lives. It is part of being human. Learning from failures, however, enables us to move on to the next challenge through better understanding. Lastly, I would say the ability to be INTERNALLY MOTIVATED. This is a consequence of your own values and goals, what comes from within you, rather than the influences of the outside world.”

SW: “What are some common barriers or challenges people face when trying to develop a growth mindset, and how can they overcome them?”

NL: "Fear is by far the biggest. Some typical fears when it comes to establishing a Growth Mindset might be fear of failure, fear of not having the right qualifications, self-doubt, and uncertainty about your goals. There is also a lack of vision, that is the ability to envision yourself in a new role. You must learn to be comfortable with uncertainty and use this lack of comfort to challenge yourself to learn the things you need to take on new tasks/responsibilities."

Methods and Best Practices

SW: "Are there any specific strategies or techniques that can help individuals cultivate a growth mindset in their personal and professional lives?"

NL: “Great question!

“First and foremost, it’s a matter of will. Start with making the decision to overcome your fears and overcome yourself in general. Look in the mirror, figuratively, and try to identify your enemy. Know your enemy. Then, win over the enemy, one step at a time.

“For me, my organizational skills help a lot. I regularly remind myself of what I want to achieve, top-down: my targets for the year, my objectives for this quarter, what I want to achieve in 1-2 weeks. It is my own combination of the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) methodology and Agile sprint management.”

SW: “Find a methodology that works for you!”

NL: “That’s right. I have both a daily and a weekly routine that I follow. I start each week by moving all “boring but necessary” tasks to Friday. On a daily basis, I identify a single most important activity for that day and focus on completing it.

“It is also extremely important to always identify what I call “my main focus for this week.” All my team members have learned this approach, and it is a very productive best practice for our team.

“Being somewhat of an introvert drives me to always search for sufficient time to calm my mind. Exercise, meditation, deep breathing, and reading are some of the ways of bringing the things that are of utmost importance to the surface. You just need to learn to see them.”

Summary - Takeaways

Our Fireside Chat with Natalie has shown us how a Growth Mindset can help with the challenges we face as job seekers. Her story is one of encouragement that shows us how adaptability, open-mindedness and seeking opportunities can lead to great things. Whether you are unemployed or looking to move up in your present company or seeking employment elsewhere, having a growth mindset gives you several advantages.

A growth mindset helps you to persist in your quest, even if you have experienced failure. You will look to improve your soft skills, seek constructive feedback, and possibly consider a new path. What you won’t do is the same old thing. Unlike the fixed mindset, you know that you can learn new skills or improve the ones you have. You can adapt to changes in the job market, take on a new challenge or go in a different direction. A growth mindset is what it may take to lead you to success and satisfaction.

And finally, ask yourself this. What are you going to do to improve your own Growth Mindset?


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