When people are internally closed, they fear feedback, but when people are externally open, they welcome feedback about their words and actions. This
feedback then helps them to learn and grow.

Oftentimes people fear feedback because they believe that “abilities are relatively unchangeable attributes.” Consequently, they see feedback as “a judgment of their personal worth.” Avoiding feedback can lead to a litany of dysfunctions – for example, seeing failure as a sign of an inability that cannot be overcome. It can also lead to a constant underestimation of one’s performance, expectations that success will be temporary, and the setting of lower goals in order to avoid failure. Because they believe their abilities are fixed, internally closed people are discouraged from attempting to improve their performance with new strategies. As a result, they develop less-efficient strategies and perform poorly on new challenges.

Fearing and avoiding feedback prevents people from being able to lift others, as it blinds them to improvement in the other person’s performance. Furthermore, when someone considers intelligence or ability to be fixed, he or she tends to be judgmental. When judgmental labels are used, people tend to behave in ways that reinforce those labels, which can hurt others as well as themselves. If a manager believes that ability is fixed, for instance, he will likely neglect coaching efforts. This will consequently hinder his employees’ growth and development potential. The authors caution that even positive labels can be detrimental, as they may cause people to avoid future challenges and feedback.

One factor that may cause people to believe that ability is fixed is praise for ability, as opposed to praise for effort. Psychologists Carol Dweck and Claudia Mueller tested this hypothesis with two groups of children. In one group, the children were complimented on the effort they gave during an activity, with such phrases as, “Wow! You really worked hard at that!” Dweck and Mueller found that these children “wanted to work on additional hard problems, persisted on those problems, enjoyed their work, and performed well.”

In contrast, the children in the other group were complimented on their ability, with praise such as, “Wow! You are so smart!” According to Dweck and Mueller, these children “wanted easier problems, quit sooner, did not enjoy their work, [and] performed worse.” Furthermore, 40 percent of the children complimented on their ability lied about their performance afterward.

Using this example, the authors argue that adults are “not that different from children when it comes to praise.” To break free of a fixed mindset, the authors suggest setting a few incremental learning goals in place of one big performance goal. These smaller goals can encourage individuals to experiment with various strategies for improving performance outcomes and thereby boost efficiency and productivity.

Researcher Gerard Seijts and his colleagues demonstrated this theory of smaller goals by having two groups of MBA students manage a mobile phone company.
One group was assigned a major performance goal – tripling market share – while the other group was instructed to develop and implement six different
strategies for increasing market share. The second group performed much better. According to the authors, the smaller, less intimidating goals were the
key to their success, as they could be built on one another. With these goals, the group quickly realized that there was more than one way to succeed with
the exercise, and they understood that they needed feedback in order to determine which way worked best. As a result, feedback about their performance was
no longer threateningly personal, but instead strategically useful.

When someone’s performance improves with the use of a specific strategy, he becomes aware that ability is not a constant. Researcher Donald Schön, who
studied professionals like architects, engineers, managers, and psychotherapists, found that the most successful professionals recognize this fact: they
“perform their craft artfully by reflecting on their work while they do it...They come up with strategies, try them out... and update their actions as they
go along.”

By being open to feedback, a lifted person positively influences others by encouraging them to be externally open. Consequently, both parties can benefit:
they “learn together and develop collective competencies.”

Author's Bio: 

Samantha Johnson is the web marketing manager and co-editor of BusinessSummaries.com -- a web-based service that brings hundreds of book summaries based on today's well-loved business bestsellers.