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The BA Skill Set – The Growth Mindset

How many of you know people in their roles who are doing things the exact same things they were doing years ago, without ever really improving their delivery or results?

The best advice I could ever give is to never become that person – you will only look back and regret the time you wasted.

I know first-hand, because I wasted a number of years being that person. Luckily, I was able to make changes and have never looked back since.

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you”
– Maori Proverb

There are many different ways into the role of a business analyst. Some study business or a similar field and specifically pursue business analysis. Many others tend to be subject matter experts within a company and are transitioned into the role, sometimes by accident.

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone”
– John Maxwell

The one key factor for ongoing success in both, is developing a growth mindset.

But that’s just the latest buzzword… right?

Whether you believe this or not, the fact remains that the philosophy behind the growth mindset is still both accurate and true. Decades ago, people rightly believed that you needed to get a job, work hard, keep your head down and you would be rewarded. With the explosion of the internet, entrepreneurship and the start-up mentality, the old way to success has been blown out of the water.

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”
– Milton Berle

The next generation of business analysts have a huge advantage; this is the only way they know, and they are good at it. With information now so readily available, and so many channels available for learning, they will one day be the industries’ thought leaders. Don’t get left behind.

But what about all the experience I’ve gained? That can’t be for nothing?

Experience is essential. No amount of learning can replace experience. But the key driver of future success is combining that experience with ongoing learning.

“Once you stop learning, you start dying”
– Albert Einstein

Whether you are the foremost expert on your subject area, or you are the only person with a deep understanding of your company’s key systems, you have to continue to improve. You need to continue to learn new skills, to further expand your knowledge, and also to help guide others with less experience than yourself, as they continue to improve and make an impact.

But how can I build a growth mindset?

This is actually the easy bit. There are a few key factors to building a growth mindset.

a) Reframe your thinking – Rather than going through the motions and delivering in the same way you always have, take a step back. At every opportunity think ‘what are we trying to achieve’ and ‘what don’t I know that could be holding me back’. These two questions on their own will really allow you to step back and think about how you are presenting to different audiences and how you can tailor your delivery to their needs. The second question, often overlooked, is often a strategy of strategic thinkers. Harvard Business Review magazine often states strategic thinking is the primary skill missing that will hold back senior managers from achieving the C-suite roles they covet. This question will help you anticipate gaps in your analysis and pre-empt questions you may later encounter. It’s a fantastic skill to develop at any stage of your career, and one that will benefit you and your employer no end.

“If you don’t know what you want to achieve in your presentation, your audience never will”
– Harvey Diamond

b) Embrace failure – People who see failure as a learning opportunity are people that, like compound interest, will always improve at a greater rate over time. Whilst failure can have catastrophic consequences, failure cannot always be avoided. Using mistakes as a learning platform is a powerful mindset shift which leads to growth. In 1985, Apple fired Steve Jobs from his position as CEO. He was rehired in 1997 and went on to become one of the most successful CEOs of all time. Everyone makes mistakes, it is how we handle, learn from, and come back from them that is the true testament of a growth mindset.

“Failure is so important. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success”
– J.K. Rowling

c) Create habits – A growth mindset can be developed simply by developing habits of learning. If you turn learning new things into a habit, you can create a habit loop. Eventually, you will thirst for knowledge. In his book ‘the Power of Habit’, Charles Duhigg states that: “Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favour another small win.” Simply learning one new thing a day will develop a growth mindset. Every day you learn is an opportunity for you to improve.

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits”
– Brian Tracy

d) Learn from everyone – Understanding that everyone is able to teach us something we don’t know is critical to growth. It’s not just those people with more experience or those who we look up to, who can teach us. Approaching situations as if we knew nothing about them can often lead to learning things we hadn’t realised we missed. A well-known technique in business analysis is called ‘the 5 whys’. For those who don’t know, this techniques states, if you ask someone why 5 times, you will get to the root cause of any problem. Albeit simplistic, anyone who has used this technique in the past can attest to its effectiveness. Learning from everyone will open up your growth potential and ensure a 360-degree learning experience.

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t”
– Bill Nye

But what if I’m still struggling? Am I just incapable of building a growth mindset?

For many people, the growth mindset can feel elusive. Change can be hard, especially if you are naturally resistant to change. The chances are you are only stuck because you fall into one of the following categories which can block a growth mindset:

a) Pride – you have been doing this a long time. Admitting you still have a lot of room for improvement is difficult, but it just takes one moment of learning to help spark the shift in mindset you need. Aim to learn one new thing or technique a week to start with. The more you learn the more you will start to see how you can apply the learnings in your day to day role. Combine this with your experience and think back to how you would have handled past situations had you known this. If you would have done something differently, congratulations, you have just grown with your new knowledge.

b) Laziness – You have got to a point where you can do a good enough job, and you are now just going through the motions. Imagine your company brings in a new person and you are paired with them on a project. If they outshone you and others noticed, would you feel threatened? You don’t need a challenge, you just need to wake up to the fact your laziness is holding you back from being the person you can become. Be mindful the next time you’re are doing something and realise you are on autopilot. Just realising you are on autopilot is enough to refocus your attention and you can look at ways to improve what or how you are doing something.

c) Fear of Failure – Trying something new will draw attention to you and you don’t want people to judge you on something you are not yet good at. Here you just need to remember that not everything has to be outward facing. As an example, maybe you are working on some analysis you do on a regular basis. Why not try to present it in a different way, or with a new technique you have recently learnt about. You don’t have to present the new way to others until you feel comfortable, or maybe you present both pieces of analysis. You will never know how it is received until you present it. Chances are you will never be derided for doing extra work to help present a situation in a better light. If you choose not to share it this time, take comfort in that fact you learnt, applied and grew in your role, even if, for now, it is just inward facing.

“You’ll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take”
– Wayne Gretzky

Taking ownership starts with you

Building a growth mindset is simply a shift in thinking that allows you to better yourself. Challenge yourself to learn and develop your skills and abilities through constant improvement.

There is nothing more conducive to future failure in business than accepting the phrase ‘because that’s how we’ve always done it’. In business analysis, this is like a red rag to a bull. Challenging the status quo more often than not leads to positive change over time. The same goes for you as an individual.

Developing a growth mindset is the key to living your best life.

“In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow
– Carol Dweck