I'm a huge fan of Carol Dweck's work on the growth and fixed mindsets. Essentially, people with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with practice, and seek out and enjoy challenges. People with a fixed mindset believe that failure indicates an unchangeable flaw, and thus avoid any challenges that might prove their lack of talent.
I try to apply the growth mindset as a parent, entrepreneur, and investor, but it can be tricky. That's why I loved this interview with Dweck were she revealed her top tip for mentoring for improvement:
"When you are giving criticism, you need to carefully critique the process someone engaged in and discuss what skills they need to learn and improve.
But I’ve also fallen in love with a new word—“yet.” You can say to someone who fell short: “You don’t seem to have this,” but then add the word “yet.” As in, “You don’t seem to have these skills…yet.” By doing that, we give people a time perspective. It creates the idea of learning over time. It puts the other person on that learning curve and says, “Well, maybe you’re not at the finish line but you’re on that learning curve and let’s go further.” It’s such a growth mindset word."
I love this approach, because it neatly cuts the Gordian knot that often faces me--if someone has failed (an entrepreneur, one of my children), I can't very well gloss over the failure, but I also want to encourage them to keep working hard. The power of "Yet" does exactly that.
"You haven't been able to find a replicable sales model...yet. But each program your startup tried has taught you something, and you're refining your approach."
"You haven't been able to play that violin piece without mistakes...yet. But every time you practice, you're getting a little better."
The next time you need to criticize yet encourage, tap into the power of "Yet".