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The 1-Word Shift to a Growth Mindset, the Case for ‘Microvalidations’ & More – The Leadership That Works Newsletter

by | May 31, 2023

At ConantLeadership, we’re committed to lifelong learning and continuous improvement. In service to your leadership growth, each month we curate the Leadership That Works Newsletter, a digest of timely resources from around the web. We prepare this resource in order to:

  • Share actionable advice from top leadership luminaries
  • Celebrate a range of viewpoints worthy of consideration (inclusion is not an endorsement)
  • Contextualize workplace trends through a leadership lens
  • Illuminate cultural recalibrations in the world of work
  • Support your personal development in life, leadership, and beyond

In this month’s Leadership That Works Newsletter: The ROI of employee wellbeing, the case for ‘microvalidations,’ the 1-word to shift to a growth mindset, and more. As alwayswe’re sharing the content from our newsletter here on our blog in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. If you find these links enriching, you can sign up to receive our newsletter right here.

Use 1 Word to Shift to a Growth Mindset

“Cultivating a growth mindset—essentially a belief that your skills can sharpen over time—has been hailed as a game-changer,” writes Anna Oakes in this Quartz piece on the topic, and we agree. At ConantLeadership, we’ve long hailed the growth mindset as essential to leadership success, and we love to share resources for cultivating it. Oakes’s coverage references the book, Your Brain at Work, by David Rock, an expert in “neuroleadership.” The book says that a “growth mindset needn’t be an individual endeavor,” and leaders should leverage the mindset to “build a culture that supports employees broadly.” He offers a three-part approach for orienting cultures around a growth mindset:

  • Part 1: Model and coax a growth mindset
  • Part 2: Deepen your habits
  • Part 3: Strengthen systems that foster resilience

The first step to bringing this to life? It starts with one simple word: “yet.” Leaders should liberally append “yet” to declarations to show that anything is possible over time: “By sprinkling ‘yet’ into statements like ‘I’m not a technology person yet,’ individuals can instantly transform their perspective to one of growth.” Get the full story and tips for all three parts of the framework here.

**For more on this read our post on the growth mindset, engage with our post on “aha moments,” and explore our piece on how to build leadership grit.

The ROI of Employee Wellbeing

“The economy today is in something of a paradox: strong fundamentals, including the lowest unemployment rate since the 1960s, but weak sentiment: CEOs are pessimistic, and generally people feel the economy is not good,” writes Sebastian Buck in this Fast Company piece. Due to the doom and gloom (whether it’s warranted or not), Buck says that many leaders are focusing on “incremental optimizations,” like “layoffs, budget cuts, and price rises,” but they are overlooking a powerful path to a brighter future: Employee wellbeing. 

Studies show: “Prioritizing employee wellbeing could transform companies, and the economy, in driving long-term business success.” Buck points to a “wellbeing deficit,” citing that “only 29% of people are thriving at work, and only one third of managers have any strategy” for improvement. Yet a new body of research from Oxford’s Wellbeing Research Center shows resoundingly that “wellbeing is the foundation of success,” and that “companies with higher wellbeing scores generate significantly better profit, command higher valuations, and outperform the stock market.”

To conduct their research, Oxford measured wellbeing across four metrics
—”people’s overall happiness, their satisfaction at work, whether they feel purpose in their work, and how stressed they are,” and drew from millions of employee surveys to arrive at their analysis. They noted a striking ROI across the board: The higher the wellbeing score, the higher the company’s performance. And researchers found that high wellbeing scores “were not only predictive of contemporaneous firm performance, but of future firm performance.” Leaders looking to deliver in the here-and-now while future-proofing their organizations for years to come should invest in employee wellbeing strategies sooner rather than later. Get the full story here.

Your Juneteenth Guide

“In 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making June 19 a federal holiday,” writes Kelsey Minor in this Senior Executive piece offering leaders a guide for honoring and observing the upcoming June holiday. Minor offers some background: “The holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, originated in Galveston, Texas. Juneteenth is observed annually with celebrations across various parts of the United States,” and “is considered the longest-running African American holiday.” The holiday’s name, a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth,” marks the day in 1865 when Texas residents learned from Major General Gordon Granger’s “General Order No. 3” that slavery had ended—two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Minor further explains the holiday’s significance: “While Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom for African Americans from slavery, it also serves as a day when African American achievements and cultures are highlighted. The holiday is a rallying call for the American collective, including companies and employers, to think about the meaning of freedom and the history of African Americans.” To observe the holiday, explore Minor’s tips for employee considerations and their wealth of suggestions for how to recognize Juneteenth in your organization. Get the full story in the guide here.

Use Your E-A-R

“Every leader can improve as a listener,” writes Jathan Janove in this Marshall Goldsmith post about creating a “coaching culture” with your leadership. Coaching cultures require a more collaborative leadership style than the dated “command and control” model which once reigned supreme. And better listening is central to the “coaching culture” approach. Janove recommends a specific process for improving your listening skills: the “E-A-R” technique.

To use your E-A-R

  • Explore: Ask “curiosity-based, open-ended questions about what the other person thinks,” e.g., “What is your view? How do you see things?”
  • Acknowledge: Ask the other party to acknowledge or confirm that you’re getting it right e.g., “Do I understand you correctly that . . . ?”
  • Respond: The last part of the sequence is your response: “When your R follows the E and A, it’s invariably smarter, more informed, and well-received than if you began with it.”

Although the technique may seem glaringly simple, Janove says it’s more challenging than you might think because, “it goes against our natural wiring, which is R-R-R.” Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore our classic post from the ConantLeadership archives, “Are You Listening Like a Leader, which offers a three-step process for better listening.

Activate Your Core

In fitness, the core is crucial to optimal physical strength and stability.  In this Financial Times piece, Columbia Business School Professor, Hitendra Wadhwa, says we must look at the “anatomy of leadership,” and consider the “inner core,” which is “a space from where our best self arises,” as the key to achieving positive outcomes. He says exemplary leaders “activate the core in themselves and others” by tapping into “five core energies”—

1. Purpose (commitment to a cause)
2. Wisdom (calm, receptive to truth)
3. Growth (curious, open to growing)
4. Love (connected with their team and those they serve)
5. Self-realization (centered in a joyful spirit)

To connect with the virtues of the “inner core,” leaders must first recognize the power of self-reflection: “When executives take stewardship of their inner state and help their team do the same, insecurities, habits and ego fall away and breakthrough performance can arise.” Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore our 6-step Blueprint process which guides leaders through transformational exercises and prompts for self-reflection—all anchored in the tenet that you must lead people from the inside, out.

Resisting the ‘Sinkhole’ of Endless Optimization

In this recent edition of her newsletter Culture Study, Anne Helen Peterson reflects on the bottomless pit of “optimization culture,” which convinces human beings “that there is one item, one process, one routine with the capacity to blunt every cumbersome corner of our day,” at home, work, and everywhere in between. While the allure of a noble crusade for better living, more productivity, and heightened wellness is undeniable, Peterson laments that “the quest for the best—or for the hack that will actually make some part of our life less cumbersome—throws a veil of dissatisfaction over our days.” She confesses: “That dissatisfaction becomes a sort of lingering fog, dampening my experience of the world,” and thus the pursuit of optimization becomes a mentally exhausting “sinkhole” with no endpoint. There will always be something else to remodel, fix, beautify, or improve; meanwhile, the things that are “good enough” pass us by, while we chase the shiniest new process, trend, or upgrade.

Peterson says the entire ethos of optimization requires “disentanglement.” For her, that means calibrating self-regard “through the eyes of a friend who loves me the most,” and “extending that posture of grace for others.” And most of all, resisting the sinkhole means: “Knowing the most precious and interesting parts of me are the ones that optimization culture would sand away. It’s remembering, over and over again, what a blessing it is to be simply, overwhelmingly, satisfied.” Get the full story here.

The Case for ‘Microvalidations’

You’re likely aware of “microaggressions,” defined by the authors of this Harvard Business Review article as “subtle acts of exclusion that negatively impact learning, problem-solving, and overall emotional well-being for workers who belong to a historically underrepresented or devalued group.” Over time, the cumulative effect of these subtle negative actions is harmful, causing those on the receiving end to “feel alienated, withdraw, and face chronic stress.” In their work and research as DEI experts and practitioners, the authors find that “avoiding committing microaggressions is not enough; to remedy the harm they cause, we need to counteract them.” To counteract microaggressions, they suggest using “microvalidations,” which are “small, positive actions that encourage or affirm.” Microvalidations “can include gestures as simple as acknowledging and affirming someone’s experience of a microaggression, or giving encouraging feedback and sincere compliments.” The authors suggest five categories of microvalidations that any leader can use—

1. Acknowledge presence
2. Validate identity
3. Voice your appreciation for everyone’s contributions
4. Hold people to high standards
5. Affirm leadership potential and status

Finally, the authors remind leaders to back up validations with follow-through: “It’s easy to say nice things, but insincere affirmations, if not backed by supportive actions, will counteract the benefit of any microvalidation, instead adding insult to injury.” Get the full story, and tips for using the five categories of microvalidations, here.

**For more on this, explore our post from the ConantLeadership archives which shares four powerful ways to value people beyond saying “thank you.”

ReLos Reach Record Lows

“For a nation full of aspiring movers and shakers, we sure don’t seem to be interested in a whole lotta moving,” writes Jacob Cohen in this The Hustle newsletter coverage of dwindling worker relocation in the U.S. The statistics from a new Challenger, Gray & Christmas report show that only 1.6% percent of American workers relocated for a new job in Q1 of 2023—a record low. In the 1980s and 1990s, almost a third of U.S. job seekers moved locations for new positions but the numbers have dropped precipitously in ensuing years due to rising housing costs, large firms moving or opening headquarters in population centers, and the latest proliferation of remote and hybrid work. And conditions don’t point to a ReLo rebound anytime soon: “With interest rates continuing to rise, mortgage rate increases and persistent inflation, the cost of selling a house and finding other housing may not be worth it to job seekers,” said Andrew Challenger, one of the principals at Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Get the full story in the newsletter here and in the related report here.

Insights & Resources from ConantLeadership

In this new blog, leadership experts Jon Gordon, Jade Gordon, and Doug Conant share four tips for using positive leadership to inspire people and get results.


In this conversation on the University of Chicago Booth School of Business CareerCast, Doug Conant shares life lessons and leadership tips for finding positive value in others.


In this recent blog, learn why Doug Conant and Malcolm Gladwell say that character is the most powerful competitive advantage in the new landscape of workplace talent.


April’s Leadership That Works Newsletter

In last month’s newsletter: Understanding ‘microstress,’ say no to being ‘voluntold,’ a framework for leading hybrid teams, how to conduct layoffs, and more.


Did You Miss The BLUEPRINT Leadership Summit?

This April, ConantLeadership hosted the 5th biannual BLUEPRINT Leadership Summit, a week-long special event bringing together the top leadership minds and luminaries in the business space.

If you missed it, no worries—we’ve linked all available recordings below. And you can also access our library of previous summit sessions here including conversations with Brené Brown, Susan Cain, Indra Nooyi, Amy Edmondson, and many more.

RECORDINGS (Fast forward to roughly minute 5 to skip intros and housekeeping)

Amy FedermanAbout the Author: Amy Federman is ConantLeadership’s Director of Content and Editor in Chief, and co-author with Doug Conant of the WSJ bestseller, The Blueprint.

(Cover photo by Planet Volumes on Unsplash)

Doug Conant is remarkable—and so is this work.
– Stephen M. R. Covey
Author of The Speed of Trust

The Blueprint

The Blueprint

6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights

By Douglas Conant with Amy Federman

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Doug works collaboratively with event organizers to customize his material for each audience.