A growth mindset is critical to any high-growth company, but how can a CEO build this mindset?  

I recently spoke to Shiv Gaglani, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Osmosis, about his approach:

“It is a super-power to find and develop people who have the right attitude, will question their assumptions, and are willing to change. The level of business change and shorter job tenures mean that individuals have to constantly change the way they do things — what works in one context is unlikely to work the same way in another context.”

Through video-based education and training, Osmosis provides health education to millions of medical and healthcare professionals and students. The company offers a library of supplementary curriculum for medical, nursing, dental, and physician assistant education that includes 1,800+ instructional videos along with supporting study guides and flashcards.

Under Shiv’s leadership, Osmosis has had an exceptional growth trajectory, scaling to over $10M in revenue and a successful acquisition by Elsevier. There are about 1,400 EdTech companies in the United States and close to 3,000 globally. Less than 5% of these companies ever achieve $1M in revenue and less than .5% ever get close to $10M.

Shiv’s success in building Osmosis and taking the company into a successful acquisition by Elsevier had everything to do with his commitment to building the right team mindset. 

Shiv shared his key practices to support a growth mindset. 

Practice 1: Leadership Commitment 📖 

“A senior leadership team’s commitment to a set of core values and a growth mindset in particular is the foundation,” said Shiv. “If any single executive team member is not living in alignment with our core values, it does a lot more damage than disruptive employees or lost customers.”

To keep the leadership aligned and modeling a growth mindset, Shiv and the Osmosis VP of People & Experience, Hillary Acer, have the leadership team collaborate on a shared visioning exercise every six months. 

They all read a book together to support a discussion of the next phase of growth — What You Do Is Who You Are and Good to Great are recent examples. They then work together on revising the mission statement, if necessary, to air out differences and build an individual and team sense of what keeps them motivated.

They all complete a “pre-mortem” to reflect on their commitment to the company and are intentional about their own careers with this thought exercise: “Fast forward one year, you are no longer here. Why is that? What does that suggest about your next phase at Osmosis?” 

Practice 2:  Intentional Career Conversations 🔑

To cascade the growth mindset from leadership into the organization, all employees and their managers are also asked to think intentionally about their individual and team goals.

Senior leadership is encouraged, but not required, to have their front-line managers and their direct reports go through the same process of reading a book together and completing the same pre-mortem activity as the leadership team. 

For the Osmosis team as a whole, each employee and their manager conduct a “stay” interview every six months. The manager is asked the questions: “Would I hire this person again?” and “If they were to leave, how hard would I fight to keep them?”

The employee asks “If I were to leave this organization today, why would it be? Is it to try something new, to build a new skill set, to get a promotion?”

“Honest and transparent conversations completed at a regular interval build an employee’s self-awareness about the right role and a manager’s self-awareness about the right team,” Shiv says. “It also makes it possible for the manager and employee to collaborate on skills development by asking: ‘What do you want to learn? How can I help you learn that?’”

Practice 3: On-going Reinforcement and Practice 🎯

While stay interviews are a key way of getting everyone to put on their “growth” mindset, daily and weekly practices are also important. “Growth mindset is not an end-state, but an ongoing process” is the way Shiv puts it, “so we need to ask our team to continually practice.”

Shiv noted three key ways he supports on-going practice and reinforcement:

  • Modeling core values — During their weekly all-hands meeting, leaders and team members are asked to share specific examples of how they put the company’s six core values into practice. 
  • Finding teachable moments — Managers are encouraged to find teachable moments in  daily work. It could be a sales deal, a product launch or an important presentation to create a dialogue: “What went well, less well, any learnings and any adjustments”
  • Expressing appreciation — “Osmosis Appreciates You” is an annual event that also anchors on their core values. Each employee receives a note from the CEO as well as 20 to 30 teammates who have each said something about how the employee has demonstrated these core values

In a world of continual change, the only constant is the need to regularly and intentionally adjust our work practices. Growth mindset is, as Shiv says, not an end state but a process.