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WHY does a Growth Mindset matter now? Clearly dealerships are in the midst of tremendous change and disruption from;

  • Digital strategies being shoehorned into traditional retail supply chains
  • Working from home
  • Rise of car sharing
  • A shift away from traditional ownership
  • Self-driving vehicles

Therefore car retailers need to develop a more agile approach to work in a constantly changing marketplace that requires improvement and innovation.

New skills and a new mindset will be required to prosper in this environment.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Professor Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: the new psychology of success,* introduces us to the idea that there are two mindsets:  Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset.

With a Fixed Mindset, people believe their attributes are fixed and therefore cannot change.

These people believe that they are a certain kind of person; that there is not much that can be done to really change who they are.

These people believe that their abilities in business, sport, technical knowledge, artistic talent and intelligence is something they are born with, a gift. They believe that talent alone leads to success and effort is not required.

Alternatively, a Growth Mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities and abilities are things you can cultivate and improve through your effort and strategy.

When people believe that their knowledge and skills can be improved, then anyone can become better at business, sport, technical knowledge and art and that they believe they can increase their intelligence by focusing on the process of improvement.

Having the right mindset will help them form the belief that they are capable of making change and reaching their goals.

In short, the difference between a Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset is:

Fixed Mindset

  • Believes skills are innate
  • Sees effort as pointless
  • Gets discouraged by failure
  • Gives up in the face of obstacles
  • Avoids challenges
  • Sees abilities as fixed

Growth Mindset

  • Believes skills can be learned
  • Sees effort as essential
  • Treats failure as a growth opportunity
  • Works through obstacles
  • Embraces challenges as a learning opportunity
  • Believes abilities can be developed

Companies are now starting to realise the contrast between a Fixed and a Growth Mindset in employees and how significantly this impacts workplace performance.

Microsoft’s Growth Mindset enabled it to become the world’s most valuable company, again.*

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is credited with leading the company through a much needed culture change using a growth mindset strategy and is now using it to develop the company’s next leaders.*

How does a Growth Mindset impact in a dealership?

If you have a Fixed Mindset, you’re less likely to think that your team is capable of growth and so are less likely to challenge them. With a Fixed Mindset, managers tend to set goals that are within their reach.

They will aim for outcomes that can be guaranteed based on their current skill set. It doesn’t challenge them to aim higher nor does it encourage them to learn something new along the way.

With a Fixed Mindset, feedback is seen as criticism and a sign of failure.

Growth Mindset leaders enable their managers to take on challenges that break them out of their comfort zone and bring about improvement. They try out innovative solutions rather than take the same safe approach to every situation.

For Dweck, encouraging a growth mindset in employees is all about praising the process. She suggests we should place emphasis on strategies, focus, progress and perseverance. 

Carol Dweck’s research explains that great leaders don’t try to prove that they are better than others and they don’t undermine the people around them to increase their own power. They focus on improving themselves and building teams of really great people, who continuously learn and develop.

The lines for feedback within your team should always be open, both for you to give to your team and for them to give to you.

Giving feedback is a great time to identify ways to learn and improve, rather than ignoring or reprimanding staff. Take the time to collectively explore the most efficient process to accomplish the task.

When it comes to team workflow, seek opportunities to delegate tasks that empower your team to learn and further their skills.

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in their book Extreme Ownership* call this “Decentralised Command”

They talk about the “commander’s intent” where the ultimate goal of the mission is clearly communicated to junior leaders and they are empowered to make decisions on key tasks to accomplish that mission.

That way, in the chaos of battle, they would have the ability to think, solve problems and execute in a manner that supports the overarching goal without having to ask for permission.

In Navy SEAL teams, as in business, ‘Trust is not blindly given, it’s built over time’ with effective debriefs/feedback for learning and getting better after every mission.

When employees get to work in a growth mindset environment they feel comfortable to collaborate with one another as well as other departments.

Knowledge can be shared between the high-performers and the rest of the team. Once the successful processes are deconstructed it becomes more compelling for people to try to emulate them.

A Growth Mindset Case Study Collection concluded* that when Growth Mindset is introduced into a business, 78 per cent of employees better understand how their contributions impact the organisation’s success.

When a dealership successfully builds teams with a Growth Mindset, whether it be in sales, service, parts, finance or admin, the team’s performance will improve as each member is constantly striving to make their role more efficient.

Growth Mindset gives employees the confidence to experiment and to improve dealership processes by bringing new ideas to the table. By rewarding employees for growth, rather than for having all the answers right, right now, we create an atmosphere of forward motion.

The fostering of a Growth Mindset presents the idea to employees that skills and abilities can be developed and setbacks are part of the learning and improvement process. It positively influences the way we perceive stretch goals and deal with effort and struggle.

For dealerships, it elevates performance by changing behaviour at scale, it boosts employee engagement and it increases workplace satisfaction.

If you wish to contribute to this discussion you can reach me at

Stan Udler is the change manager at McCarroll’s Automotive Group.

Stan Udler

* Dweck, C., 2006. Mindset The New Psychology Of Success. New York: Random House.
* Growth Mindset Case Study Collection

By Stan Udler