Many people view the promise of a new year with a spirit of freshness and change – the opportunity to make improvements in our lives, businesses, families, health, or other areas. Whether this comes through thoughtful new year resolutions, enrolling in a course, joining a gym, embracing new technology, or other method, the calmer days of winter following the holiday mayhem provide a clean canvas on which to plan, design, and commence needed change. In this light, one of our guest bloggers, David Williams, contributor at Paceline Services, outlines what may be seen as a “new” mindset that retailers should consider instilling in their stores to enhance the overall engagement, productivity, and value of their retail store staff.

The critical role of leadership within a retail store environment requires a dynamic individual with varied skills, knowledge and experience. A potentially untapped asset in these individuals is their overall outlook on growth and development, since, in addition to running the store, they are responsible for providing an environment where store associates are engaged and effectively executing their job responsibilities.

While store managers are typically measured solely on store performance, these individuals are, after all, leaders of people – arguably their most important responsibility. As such, store managers can take the unique opportunity they have as leaders to encourage growth and development in their associates – which will lead to higher employee engagement. This opportunity involves inspiring in each subordinate a core belief in the importance of their own capabilities, growth, and development.

When initially embarking on this approach, store leadership – which includes field and district managers – will quickly find their staff falls into one of two categories with respect to personal growth: one that enables learning and development and a second that stunts their growth. Let’s explore these different mindsets.

The Fixed Mindset

For individuals who subscribe to a fixed mindset, personal traits such as skills, talents and capabilities are immovable and static. This creates an insistence to prove oneself over and over. If one has a (perceived or real) limitation in intelligence, interpersonal skills, physical ability, or even moral character, they will try to mask the limitation.

To look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics is a harsh judgment.

In the world of fixed traits:

  • Success is about proving intelligence or talent to others.
  • Setbacks such as getting fired or negative feedback exposes an individual as lacking intelligence or skill.
  • Putting forth effort indicates that a task doesn’t come naturally, and success is highly questionable.

The Growth Mindset

The growth mindset is based on the belief that, although people differ in their innate talents, aptitudes, interests, or temperaments, an individual’s basic qualities can be cultivated and enhanced through focused effort and experience.

Openness for stretching and undaunted determination – particularly when the effort is not going well – is the hallmark of the growth mindset. People with a growth mindset are not simply positive, enthusiastic, or outgoing; they have a set of beliefs that allow them to look at challenges as opportunities and are people who value personal growth.

In the world of qualities that can change, grow and develop:

  • Success is based partially on one stretching and developing oneself to learn something new.
  • Failure is represented by a lack of growth, not striving for the things valued, and not fulfilling one’s potential.
  •  True, concentrated effort is the required means to acquire knowledge or skill.

While mindsets are merely beliefs, they are indeed powerful beliefs, and everyone has a choice between the two described above. These exist primarily in a person’s mind, and minds can be intentionally changed. Beliefs about learning, skill, personal growth, intelligence, performance and development are flexible. People who recognize this have a powerful opportunity to take control of their mindset and go about the work of personal development.

Benefits of Promoting a Growth Mindset 

Employees working within a growth mindset are going to be ambitious and put forth effort into their job because they understand that effort will lead to development of their personal skills, knowledge and/or experience. This tenet holds true even when they may initially fail at new tasks. In fact, more challenging tasks present employees with the opportunity to stretch themselves – an activity in which growth-minded individuals not only pursue but thrive.

These employees will also be more engaged. Their engagement will lead to better customer interactions and a higher quality of work done, whether it is stocking shelves, conducting basic inventory tasks, or emptying the trash.

Further, growth-minded individuals will be ambassadors within the organization. They’ll be the change leaders and willing to be the “Guinea pigs” whom retail leaders tap to test new technology and processes.

Store Leadership’s Role

Store managers and operations leadership roles can transform the way they work with store employees. They must embody and promote a growth mindset: an interest in teaching and learning, an openness to giving and receiving feedback, and an ability to confront and surmount obstacles.

Store leadership should be creating an environment in which employees can grow. Employee growth can be praised in a timely and public way. Staff can be presented with progressively challenging tasks and career paths, not just with operational tasks but with attitudes and knowledge.

Instead of using simply authority or prescribed role descriptions to assign resources to tasks, leaders can inspire the desire for a challenge by instilling this growth-oriented mindset.

Relationship with Feedback

Growth mindset transforms the experience of receiving feedback because those with a growth mindset want accurate feedback, which is perceived as constructive criticism; they want to grow, learn, and develop.

For employees with a fixed mindset, personal feedback equals judgment. As a result, they will only want good news; short of this, they will want to merely magnify the good and explain away the bad to hide their deficiencies.

People Skills

People skills can be learned, developed and perfected. Growth mindset people approach customer interactions as welcome and positive challenges – and they tend to enjoy the varying exchanges. Both successful and unsuccessful interactions offer those with a growth mindset an opportunity to learn and improve.

Associates with a fixed mindset may avoid the potential risk that comes from interacting with others and succumb to their fear of social judgment. These employees will be reluctant to approach customers to offer assistance or to sincerely engage in the check-out line.


Many organizations believe in natural talent and don’t invest in the people with potential to develop. These organizations are missing out on a big pool of possible leaders, and this belief might actually turn the very people they think are the naturals into defensive non-learners.

Leaders with a growth mindset aren’t going to feel threatened by making decisions based on the long-term benefits, even if the short-term benefits are suboptimal. They’ll learn from their own mistakes and not be tempted to make decisions for the hidden reason that it masks a personal shortcoming.

Fixed mindset leaders have trouble transcending their belief that their results reflect on themselves personally; thus, often try to choose a path that puts them in the best light. When they experience failure or unexpected negative results, instead of learning from it or seeking to understand the causes, they will resort to blaming others and dodging personal responsibility.


So, what can store leadership do to incorporate a growth mindset into their stores and leverage the benefits that come from this outlook?

  1. They must understand each employee’s mindset either by evaluating their responses to challenges and new tasks or by performing a mindset assessment.
  2. Store leadership must regularly inspire and encourage qualities consistent with a growth mindset, such as providing direct messages to employees in support of learning, growing, and challenging.
  3. Regular performance reviews must incorporate feedback on associates’ mindset. Employees who demonstrate the qualities should be openly recognized.
  4. Store managers can embed the growth mindset into the store’s culture by adopting the language of growth, basing financial incentives and adopting the growth mindset themselves.

Finally, store managers can learn more about the growth mindset by reading books that explain this concept and outline how to apply it throughout many aspects of their lives. One such book is, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.

Wishing you the best of luck in all your endeavors this year.


Published On: February 1, 2018Categories: Guest Contributor, Retail Associates, Store Operations