In this extract from Chapter 1 of the forthcoming 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership, I talk about the importance of Mindset.


The question came from the back of the room. It always does, doesn’t it?

“After listening to your ‘10 lessons to make partner’ talk, which one of the 10 lessons is the one which matters the most? The one you really need to heed to make it to partner?”

That question came at the end of a talk I had delivered to over 120 senior tax professionals in 2016. It also marked the moment where I realised that it didn’t matter how much money you were making or could make for your firm. If you didn’t have the right Mindset, you’d never make it to partner.

Why is Mindset so important?

The concept of Mindset was popularised by the work of Carol Dwerk, but has been around since the early 1900s. Mindset, at its simplest, is a way of thinking; a mental inclination or disposition, or frame of mind. Think of your Mindset as a collection of your beliefs, attitudes, values and common thoughts.

So, why is Mindset so important to your future career progression? Your Mindset drives what you focus on. What you focus on drives your behaviours. Which in turn dictates your actions. And it is these actions which then determine the results you achieve. This book will help you understand the skills, behaviours and attitudes required from you to become a successful partner. But if you don’t eliminate any hindering Mindsets you may have, then the likelihood of you sustainably implementing these new skills, behaviours or attitudes is low. If you can adopt the right Mindsets for your success, then it will become much easier to create sustainable behavioural change. And it is this behavioural change which will take you from being a senior fee earner to becoming a partner. This is why the first key indicator in our Partnership Readiness Assessment is Mindset.

The importance of a Growth Mindset versus a Fixed Mindset

In the 1990s, Carol Dwerk and her colleagues started studying students’ attitudes towards failure. They set about decoding the reason for why some students rebounded quickly from failure and others were severely troubled by even the smallest setback. They found the difference could be pinpointed on the students’ Mindset. What they found was people with a fixed Mindset, believe their basic abilities, intelligence and traits are fixed. Whereas those with a growth Mindset, believe that their talents and abilities can be developed with hard work and effort.

Table showing the characteristics of a Growth Mindset vs a Fixed Mindset

Growth MindsetFixed Mindset
Believe their talents and abilities can be developedBelieve abilities, strengths, intelligence and traits are fixed
Focus on the process and learningFocus on the outcome
Embraces and welcomes challengesAvoid challenges
Learns from failures and setbacksGives up easily and avoids learning from errors and failure
Is inspired to learn from others successFeels threatened by others success
Sees all feedback as an opportunity to learn and developAvoids negative feedback
Looks for new experiences to learn and developAfraid of failure and will often avoid new experiences as concerned about failure

If you are reading this you could be forgiven for thinking it all sounds rather woo-woo, i.e. having little or no scientific basis. The concept of a Growth Mindset is reinforced by recent advances in neuroscience. Neuroscience is the science of how the human brain actually works. It has discovered that the brain is far more malleable than previously thought. When you learn a new skill or a new way of doing something your brain forms a new neural pathway. The more you practice the new skill, the stronger the neural pathway becomes in your brains. And the less thought or effort you need to put in to use the new skill. This means your abilities, skills and talents are not fixed. They can be changed, moulded, acquired or strengthened. This also means that if you regularly seek out new experiences or opportunities to learn, your brain will get more effective at learning new skills and behaviours.

What are the Mindsets you need to adopt to progress your career?

Everyone is different, and some specialisms will require a certain trait or Mindset to be successful. However, this list of Mindsets are common to all successful professionals who have progressed through the ranks to partner.

  • Making partner is not just another promotion, it is where I grow a business which will increase the profits of the firm
  • My own mental and physical health are more important than hitting work targets
  • How I spend and use my time is within my control
  • I see fear as something to be embraced rather than hide from
  • It is my responsibility to drive my own development and career
  • Business development is part of my day job
  • I want to make a positive impact to my firm

How do you measure up?

To find out whether your Mindset is helping or hindering you from making it to partner, then complete our free  Partnership Readiness Assessment.

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