Presence, Impact and Influence
Your mindset in the work of performance, influence, and impact matters greatly, and it is where
your thoughts originate and focus.
Chris Forstinger is the General Manager of FBT Inc., a successful, multi-generational tool and die
company in Ontario’s Niagara Region. Chris is a client, colleague, and someone whose insights I
respect and admire. Early on in our conversations, he mentioned the impact that Carol Dweck’s
book, Mindset, had on his career path and team leadership. Together, we have absorbed the
teachings of this book and agreed it should be used to preface this chapter’s message.
In a subsequent chapter, we will dive deep into strengthening our relationship with failure and
adversity. Your relationship with failure will affect how you deal with it.
Are there some who internally desire failure? The typical response would be: “Of course not.”
Yet when multiple failures are experienced, many people give up on learning. The best way to
not be discouraged by failure is to not even think that you are failing. Think, rather, that you are
This difference in perspective on failure is driven by two different meanings assigned to ability
itself. An ability can be fixed and thus needs to be proven, or an ability is changeable and can be
developed through growth and learning. These two different views on ability also give us two
different mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
“The fixed mindset is about validation. The growth mindset is about developing yourself. It
means knowing that you have to work the hardest for the things you love the most.” — Carol
Those who possess a fixed mindset are most concerned with being right and knowing how they
will be judged. The growth mindset operates under the primary concern of understanding how
you can gain new insights and improve yourself.
With a fixed mindset, you see events and even your own perceptions and traits as fixed.
Consequently, success is about proving that you are smart or talented. The fixed mindset is all
about validation and already knowing.
On the other hand, the growth mindset is all about pushing yourself to gain new insights and
skills. With the growth mindset, your goal is to develop yourself and become a better version of
who you are today; an important modern business theme and the fundamental message
behind this book. People with a growth mindset always seek opportunities and challenges, but
more importantly, they thrive off them.
Operating from the perspectives and beliefs of the two mindsets, alone or combined, is
undoubtedly the most important question you have to ask yourself. If you had to choose, what would your priority be: success through repeated validation or success through many new
Naturally, most people reading this book would decide to choose the latter, yet — when
interrogated at the ground level and immersed in the dynamics, egos, and positioning within
teams — it is interesting to observe traditional, fixed mindsets at work. This is why innovation
and change are so difficult to observe through performance measures.
More on the fixed mindset: If you believe that your personal qualities and characteristics are
predetermined at an early age or carved in stone, you will experience an innate urgency to
prove your worth and value, over and over again. The fixed mindset, based on already knowing
and being unwilling to budge, is a heavy burden. Being perfect and flawless does not allow
room for growth and failure. Consequently, these people might go looking for the company of
others who are even worse off than they are in order to make them feel better about
People with the fixed mindset have misplaced self-esteem and believe that if they are
successful, they are better than others and can look down on them. They may even be prone to
abusing less successful people and making them feel inferior. It is the fastest way to damage
relationships. Most fixed-mindset people mobilize their resources, not for learning but simply
to protect their egos. Fixed-mindset people feel they have ‘arrived’ when successful, yet are
‘dangerously at risk’ when failing. This is easily transformed into an identity: “I am a failure.”
With the fixed mindset where the goal is to avoid failure, people thrive when things and tasks
are safely within their knowledge and grasp. The moment they are pushed beyond their
comfort zone when things get too challenging or when they do not feel smart or talented, they
resist change, call it stupid, and simply lose interest. These people will resist training of any
kind, thinking they already know better. They challenge the trainers, and even think they can do
a better job at facilitating training. Judging is easier than participating. Avoiding effort is
common with fixed-mindset people.
People who operate from the fixed mindset believe that it is the world that needs to change,
not them. Entitlement surfaces and they feel the world should recognize their special qualities
and treat them accordingly, without them having to invest any effort. Generationally in
business, we see these unjust labels placed on younger Millennial and Generation Z age groups
by the older Baby Boom Generation and Generation X.
More about the growth mindset: We all differ in our innate talents, attitudes, aptitudes,
interests, and personality characteristics. The growth mindset emphasizes the fact that we can
all change, grow, and progress through effort, application, and experience.
This underlying belief creates a desire and passion for learning. With the growth mindset, it is
impossible to set a goal when you believe that you already have the tools and knowledge to achieve it. This philosophy means that the true potential of a person is unknown, and
unknowable, at the moment.
Accomplishment from years of passion, coaching, training, and practice is possible with the
growth mindset, yet there is always a desire to better your skills and craft. Weeks after winning
a championship, most sports teams find themselves back on the practice field. The growth
mindset welcomes the idea that failure is not a painful experience and does not define a
“Having the growth mindset doesn’t protect you from the pain of failure. But failure doesn’t
define you. A failure is only a temporary problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.” —
The pinnacle of the growth mindset is a passion for ongoing learning, stretching, and pushing
yourself to stick to your goals, especially when things are not going well — when, for example,
you have to persist through challenging times or even push past challenging people. They are
fully aware of the time and effort required to succeed, dedicating less attention to potential
and more to determination and belief.
After years of board room interactions, I find it ironic that people with the fixed mindset crave
being placed at the top. However, the top is usually where many growth-mindset people arrive
as a by-product of their focus, enthusiasm, and desire to be better at what they do.
“In times of change, learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully
equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” — Eric Hoffer
“It’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest.”— Carol Dweck
You will never possess just one mindset. Your mindset can vary in different areas of
performance development. In some circumstances, you may have a fixed approach in one and a
growth approach in another. The key is in the awareness and identification of which mindset
you are operating from in certain circumstances and determining which is more useful in the
For example, you might think that your creative skills are fixed, but that your intelligence can be
developed. Or you might think that you can improve in your management skills, but that your
sports abilities are fixed from an early age – you are just not a sporty person. See the chapter
on strengthening your relationship with failure for the classic fixed mindset limitations
It would also be naïve to say that effort is the only thing that is important in success and hitting
stretch goals. Of course, nobody can sustain maintained success for long without effort, but there are many other factors that come into play with success. Resources, networks, and
opportunities are especially important.
Influential friends, a supportive family, access to education, being in the right place at the right
time… these all play an important role in the effort to support success and thinking. Having
resources, even luck, will play a role, but it is only with the attitude of constant personal
improvement that separation from the ‘me too’ masses (of business, not to be confused with
the social movement) happens. Having a growth mindset is not about forcing yourself into
continuous learning; you would ultimately resent this pressure. It simply represents a decision
to never stop developing your skills or settling for mediocrity or the status quo. You will choose
to own a growth mindset and it is completely up to you to recognize and act on it. The same is
true with a fixed mindset, yet only in the recognition phase as fixed-mindset people feel no
action is required: they experience pure stagnation.
“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures. I divide
the world into the learners and non-learners.” — Benjamin Barber
Talent is an important consideration and question to consider. Talent as a resource can be
critical, but just because some people can do something with little-to-no training, it does not
mean that others cannot do it, and sometimes do it even better, with training. Even artistic
and creative skills are not magical acts of inspiration, but the result of hard work and
dedication. People can be innately artistic, but it is with dedicated practice and technique
development that they become masters in their personal realms. The most dangerous view on
talent that anyone can possess is that natural talent does not require any effort to be further
developed. If you assume that someone is naturally talented and that effort is only for the
less-endowed, that is the fixed mindset at its finest.
The fixed mindset and ego are the best of friends. Coaching and mentorship is ignored and
there is little need to work on deficiencies and shortcomings. Influence and performance will
dwell in stagnation. This chapter is lost on those with the fixed mindset. Many people do not
start with a fixed mindset. They develop their careers and experience from a growth mindset
before eventually reaching the tipping point where the fixed mindset takes over. The ability to
deal with continuous problems and cope with setbacks conflicts with the feeling of superiority
associated with the fixed mentality.
The ones who remain at the top of their game are the people who work even harder with
promotions, learn to keep focused in high-pressure situations, and stretch beyond their
ordinary abilities in both good times and hard times.
Setbacks and failures should motivate, not define, you. They are constant and informative
occurrences designed to be lessons. Adversities are meant to be wake-up calls requiring
courage, self-reflection, and analysis. They are signs requiring smarter and more effective
efforts. Remember: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again,
expecting different results.
Growth- and fixed-mindsets in the business environment: This book is meant to represent
the unique dynamic of various business environments. Personal influence and performance
measures, continued improvements, and leading change are always anchored in clear mindsets
and identifying where team members operate from. Successful managers and great leaders are
not always larger-than-life, charismatic types who ooze ego and self-proclaimed talent.
The strongest growth-mindset leaders will always be those who constantly learn, ask questions,
and are not afraid to confront robust conversations and situations. They have no concerns with
addressing adversity and looking failure in the eyes, as they will always maintain faith and focus
on what is most important in the end: success.
Fixed-mindset owners and managers are very dangerous. They find purpose in being in control
or controlling others. They can be unconsciously, or even consciously, abusive in order to
support their perception of superiority. Consequently, instead of continued learning, growing,
and moving forward in the company, apathy sets in amongst people on teams. They become
afraid of judgement and ultimately stop performing, avoiding innovative ideas and
contributions. Fixed-mindset bosses will go so far as to put the whole company in jeopardy,
because in their mind, their ego and legacy is omnipotent above everything else.
At best, status quo is maintained and even small, short-term goals are mired in complacency.
Mistakes get covered up, and blame and shame is everywhere. The finite game is played.
On the other hand, real leaders with a growth mindset play the infinite game as they see teams
and the company as vehicles of growth and learning for themselves, employees, and the
company as a whole. Thus, they put mentoring a coaching environment, as well as listening,
recognition, and appreciation, as their priorities.
Is it possible to change your mindset? This is the ultimate question, really.
Fortunately, you can always change or upgrade your mindset. It is fundamental in the journey
to increased influence and impact. Just by being aware of and knowing about fixed and growth
mindsets, you can start thinking, reacting, and seeing yourself, others, and the world in new
ways. Innately, everyone is born with a desire to grow through curiosity and a love of learning.
Some considerations and suggestions:
1. When adversity shows up and you experience failure, exhaustion, and confusion, picture
the intended lesson and grow your mental capacity through the challenge. Learn to
work harder in this moment and refuse to spiral downwards.
2. Avoid surrounding yourself with those who do not support your growth or make an
effort to discourage your intentions and goals. In turn, avoid being with people who
drag you down and judging these people as less fortunate than you. You are not meant to be a saviour. Seek those who challenge you to become better and push you forwards
3. Analyze the people you admire and consider leaders to your development — those who
have put in the work and have overcome failures in their own development. Seek out
those who have taken your journey and can offer you mentorship and guidance. Find a
strong coach to develop the strengths you are not aware that you have.
4. Define your success through ongoing learning and development. Never feel as though
you have arrived. Admit and correct your deficiencies while enjoying the process. Avoid
the winning mentality found in finite games that have a start and finish. Instead, focus
on the influence you have over others and the legacy you are leaving behind through
reputation. See yourself with a growth mindset as a guide for yourself and others.
5. True influence and confidence is about possessing the courage to lead change, be open
to new opportunities, and to welcome ideas. Real confidence is reflected in your
mindset and your preparedness to grow every day.