I recently spoke to a group of sales professionals within a Fortune 50 company. I had worked with several of their sales channels for months. So I knew what challenges faced me. One of my most critical tasks involved shifting their mindset – quickly. The corporate jargon used by the company had created an unfortunate negative association. Sales reps underperforming went on a “coaching plan”. What did that mean for the rest of team? Do your job well and no coaching needed.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindsetfixed-mindset-sales-professionals-joe-cross-difference

When I show up, the program I roll out depends heavily upon coaching. Someone who doesn’t see the value of coaching or has a negative view of it will quickly find themselves losing ground to their peers. Although I focus my personal coaching on directors and managers, I expect everyone to experience the benefits immediately. If we deliver our best to the reps, two things generally happen: They adopt a growth mindset and use coaching to improve their performance. (And their job satisfaction goes way up. They develop the habits to think critically and discover their own opportunities. And they start talking about how this has changed their lives.) That happens about 95 percent of the time. The remaining five percent try to protect their fixed mindset.

If they hold a fixed mindset, any coaching rubs against their view of themselves. And that rub creates a sense of threat. Subconsciously, this will generate a lot of emotions:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Shame
  • Frustration
  • Isolation
  • Resentment

A growth mindset combined with good coaching actually produces the opposite:

  • Hope
  • Accomplishment
  • Empowerment
  • Gratitude
  • Compassion
  • Enjoyment
  • Camaraderie

And those ingredients result in sustainable high performance.


When I work with people who still haven’t embraced a growth mindset (and none of us live there all the time), I often see the following self-protective mechanisms:

  • Humor (keep the atmosphere light so we don’t go too deep)
  • Sarcasm (same as above)
  • Defensiveness (everything I do works just fine)
  • Justification (let me explain why I have to do it this way)
  • Comparison (give me a grade – how am I doing compared to everyone else)
  • Deflection (let’s talk about generic opportunities or those of others)
  • Passive avoidance (I have no idea how I can improve)
  • Passive engagement (if I play along for a while hopefully this will go away)

So how can you know if you have a fixed vs. a growth mindset? Look for those behaviors and feelings. Changing behaviors involves identifying what causes them in the first place.

Meditation can help generate enough mental control and awareness to bring the subconscious to the surface. That might sound woo-woo. It shouldn’t. Your brain undergoes physical change which will create mental power. That power might just give you the ability to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. And that can change your life.

For more on growth mindset, see Dr. Carol Dweck and her book.