yetCarol Dweck gave an amazing TED Talk presentation “The Power of Yet” that inspires this month’s post.

She begins her talk about a high school that gives the grade “not yet” instead of “failing” so that students understand that they are on a learning curve, not at a dead end.  According to Dweck’s presentation, there is a direct correlation between feeling like a failure and avoiding the problem.  By contrast, feeling like learning is a process that has merit in and of itself promotes perseverance and skill development over time.

I love this!   Aren’t we all on a learning curve?  The idea of “not yet” instead of “no” means that the future still holds the possibility of it happening!

Let’s explore how this applies to promoting a culture of learning, progress and growth for our younger colleagues, particularly in the area of business development.

Here are three ways to develop a firm mindset of “yet” in learning business development skills:

  • Praise the effort, process and improvement not intelligence or talent.
    • Isn’t this the plot of about half of the movies in the theater? Americans love an underdog who wins through hard work and determination.  No, not everyone in your firm is going to compete for who can bring in the next largest client to the firm.  But, if everyone did THEIR best and continued to improve, it would lead to better results overall.
    • What you can do: Consider meeting people at their individual level and finding a stretch assignment to help them grow.  Compliment and reward their effort, not their success.
  • Pushing out of your comfort zone helps you learn. Through perseverance, new skills develop.
    • There must be some acknowledgement that asking your team to do networking or participate in new client pitches may not feel natural YET. There will be awkward moments or bungled answers to questions or deer-in-the-headlights silences.
    • What you can do: When you begin to set expectations or assign goals, center them around participation not results. Make it clear, particularly to the most novice at business development, that they should be focusing on skill development and comfort in (currently) uncomfortable environments, not the number of events they’ve attended only to come up empty handed of new clients.
  • Reward effort, strategy and progress not results.
    • It may be true that there are no stupid questions… but there are definitely good questions! Let your team know when you hear an idea or question that shows the person is giving the idea of business development thoughtful consideration and share your response with everyone.
    • What you can do: Offer perspective.  Periodically give your team a boost by reminding them how far they’ve come in the past few months or year.  Making business development skill building a part of the annual review process is another way to reinforce its importance for the firm, and for their career.

I encourage you to watch Carol Dweck’s TED Talk presentation “The Power of Yet”.  It’s focus is on education and it provides us all an inspiring message to continue to work toward creating a positive mindset while continuing toward the mastery of skills over time.

And of course, I’m available to help!


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Alison has more than fifteen years of professional services marketing and business development experience. She is a Boston College Double Eagle, holding both a BS in Management with concentrations in Marketing & Information Systems, and an MBA. Alison is a member of the 2009 Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 class of honorees.