If you enjoy reading about how to lead teams or be successful then you’ve probably come across the topic of fixed vs. growth mindsets.

The concept comes largely from the research of Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University and while her research is focused on the ability of students to succeed in the face of adversity I also find the idea a useful concept for Customer Success.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets for Customer Success

  • A fixed mindset desires to look smart and always have the answer.
  • A growth mindset sees challenges as opportunities to learn and improve.
  • Ask questions first instead of solution-pushing during customer onboarding.
  • Avoid just showing off product features without understanding needs.
  • Foster a growth mindset by making space for mistakes and learning.

Carol Dweck’s Mindset Study

Dr. Dweck’s work discusses two belief systems – or ‘mindsets’ – about intelligence.

Students with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is innate and unchangeable. By contrast, students with a growth mindset understand that intelligence (and success) is flexible and can be developed.

In reality people rarely operate in a single mindset, instead people tend to operate on a spectrum and can operate with fixed mindsets in certain aspects of their life while having growth mindsets in others.

The Importance of Fixed vs Growth Mindset

Why is this important in Customer Success? For two main reasons:

First, as CSMs we want to be seen as smart, capable and having all the answer for customers and colleagues alike. The second reason and the one I find far more important is the fact that our single most important job as a CSM is to make our customer’s success our success and this means helping them by solving their problems.

Students with a growth mindset understand that intelligence (and success) is flexible and can be developed.

When people are operating with a fixed mindset they have an overwhelming desire to look smart and prove they always have the answer. I find when onboarding a new customer it is especially easy to fall into a fixed mindset for a number of reasons.

It might be because you’re keen to prove value to your new customer or because you think you’ve onboarded a million customers just like them and thus know exactly what they “need.”

But falling into this mindset actually hinders the ability to fully understand and help your customers.

The Main Questions about Mindset

So here are a few questions to ask yourself to see if you are operating in a fixed mindset when onboarding your new customer.

  1. Was your first engagement with the customer solution oriented?
    • If so then you’re probably moving too fast and not truly understand the needs of your customer. Slow down, ask questions and get to the bottom of what is important to your customers success.
  2. Did you start by immediately showing the customer features and functions?
    • Then I would ask if you are enamored by your own technology and merely showing what you find to be cool as opposed to hearing your customers needs and showing them how your solution can solve their problems.
  3. Did you feel like a failure if you can’t answer every question the moment they were asked?

If you find yourself answering yes to the majority of these questions then you are potentially operating in fixed mindset territory. And here is how you can navigate towards a growth mindset and truly enable the long term success of your customer.

CSMs and How They Optimize Onboarding

CSMs with growth mindsets see onboarding as more than just a phase in the customer life cycle they must rush through.

Strong CSMs who perform the best onboarding know that there will be issues during onboarding – whether they be platform related or from another source.

But great CSMs also realize that these problems are just bumps in the road on the way to an eventual successful implementation. And this is the essence of the growth mindset.

No matter the setbacks or challenges the CSMs with growth mindsets see challenges as an opportunity to grow and improve not only themselves but their platform and organization as a whole.

So if you provide your CSMs the ability to be secure in the fact that they don’t need to know everything from the word go and that they are free and welcome to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks and learn from their mistakes then you will develop teams that reach higher levels of achievement instead of plateauing early and never realizing their full potential.