Small business owners growth mindset banner

How small business owners can develop a growth mindset culture

Small business advice

6 April 2020

When researching the concept of a growth mindset, Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, studied the behaviour of school students and their attitudes to failure. However, the concept of a growth mindset and the benefits that can come with it extend well beyond the classroom.

A growth mindset can have a number of benefits for small businesses. From employees feeling a stronger sense of commitment and ownership to the company, to them feeling more supported with risk taking and innovation1.

So how can business owners encourage a growth mindset amongst their team? As part of the AXA Growth Leaders Series, we produced the AXA Growth Leaders report in collaboration with The Supper Club. It explores the concept of leading with a growth mindset through insights and viewpoints from business leaders. 

Build a great team

As with most things in business, your team is often the foundations of your success when it comes to creating a growth mindset. Ensuring that you have the right team on board from the outset and that each team member is invested in the vision and goals of the company can be hugely beneficial.

When discussing how he built his team to drive growth, Charlie Walker (Founder of Harmonic Finance) says, “A lot of it starts at the beginning: you have to make sure you’re recruiting people who are motivated by the right things. It’s more about finding the right people rather than trying to get the best out of people that don’t fit.” 

Finding team members that not only have the relevant skills and experience to fulfil their particular role but who also work well together as a team can be one of the challenges with recruitment and growing a team. When it comes to creating a team, Edwina Dunn (co-founder of Dunnhumby and CEO of Starcount) says, “I’ve always really loved blending older experienced people with young skilled technologists – you need both. Getting that blend right and ensuring that egos don’t get in the way is really important. It’s also about letting people know that you need them because they are good at something you’re not good at. It helps them know they make a difference – that they matter.”

An effective way of ensuring that a team works well together is to develop a sense of friendship and camaraderie within the team in order to build up a level of trust. Celia Francis, CEO of Rated People, says, “It’s important to have great people in place that you can delegate to and trust to recruit the right people, but they have to work together as a team. That can be difficult if it’s a new team of people who don’t know each other very well. It can take years to build a sense of trust and mutual respect. You need a shared vision, mission, strategy and tactics, because the whole team needs to buy into the plan. To speed things up, you also need a sense of friendship to help build that trust. You need to create an environment where people feel confident so they can speak their mind without fear of being embarrassed or punished for speaking up. To do this, they have to get to know each other on a personal level.” 

Tax image

Private health cover

We provide business healthcare cover for 1 to 249 employees. Our plans are built around the needs of you and your business.


Develop an induction and training programme

Once you’ve recruited a new member to the team, it’s important to ensure that their induction to the company is thorough. This can help to ensure that they understand the company values and goals, and the part that their role plays in achieving the overall business objectives. 

Joel Perlman, co-founder of OakNorth, says “You need to bring in the right person and train them in the right way. It’s essential that your selection, your induction and your training are very robust, otherwise, it will drag you down. Also, instilling a culture that we call ‘the right ambition’. People focussed on the company success and their success as a by-product, as opposed to the wrong ambition, which is people focussing on their success regardless of what happens to the company.”

Offering opportunities for regular training and development to the team is also important when it comes to creating a workplace culture of continual learning. Employees should be encouraged to not only further their knowledge of their particular role, but to also learn about other areas of the business.

Encourage ownership and accountability

In order to encourage a growth mindset culture within the team, it’s important for business owners to allow their employees to have ownership and accountability. This can help to encourage creativity and innovation within the business as the team has greater flexibility and control over their work. Encouraging your people to not be discouraged by setbacks and to instead view them as an opportunity to learn for the future can also be an effective way to incorporate a growth mindset into the business.

“In our work with scaling businesses, the things that create high performing teams are to allow your culture to evolve as you grow. You can keep the same principles, purpose and values but culture must evolve. Bring your people into that evolution to design the future.” Jo Geraghty, co-founder of Culture Consultancy. “Let them bring their ideas and give them the accountability and ownership to drive it forward. Most importantly, equip them with the next generation leadership skills they are going to need – like resilience, adaptability, a growth mindset and being able to harness the talent of others.”

Facilitate regular feedback

One of the primary differentiators between those with a growth mindset and those with a fixed mindset is that they actively encourage feedback and criticism and view it as an opportunity to learn and develop2. It could therefore be beneficial from a growth mindset perspective to encourage opportunities for regular feedback.

Performance reviews can be a great opportunity to provide constructive feedback in a personal development setting, however feedback shouldn’t just be limited to these meetings. 

Alongside providing regular feedback to your team about their work, you could also encourage them to share their feedback about the business with you. This could be a great way to find out what your team thinks is working well and where they think improvements could be made. It also shows that you value their views when it comes to how the business could improve.

The AXA Growth Leaders Series report

Together with The Supper Club, we've produced the AXA Growth Leaders Series report which features insights and thought leadership articles from inspiring business leaders. Download your copy of the AXA Growth Leaders Series report.

How we can help

At AXA Health, we think that the best way for you to get the healthcare cover that's right for you and your team is to let you build your plan yourself. That's why we offer a choice of cover options and benefits for you to select from, so you only pay for the cover you need.*

Find out more about our small business healthcare cover, including what we do and don’t cover or get a quote today.

*If you are buying healthcare cover for 1-2 people only, you will need to include either the Treatment option or the Diagnostics Only option in your plan.

Sources and references

1 Harvard Business Review

2 Farnam Street

Small business health insurance experts

Start taking care of yourself and your team today and get a quote for our business health insurance. Or, talk to us about how we can help your business reach their wellbeing goals.