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Developing goal orientations conducive to learning and performance: An intervention study

A new study by Ying Wang, School of Management, RMIT University, Chia-Huei Wu, Department of Management and Marketing, Durham University, Sharon K. Parker, Centre for Transformative Work Design, UWA Business School, The University of Western Australia and Mark A. Griffin, Curtin Business School, Curtin University


In one of the first studies of its kind, with a sample of MBA students, we show how a personal development program can result in managers and professionals developing lower 'performance avoid orientations". This is important because a great deal of evidence shows that when individuals are high on performance avoid orientation, they avoid new challenges and opportunities out of a fear of not performing well, which can impair their learning, job performance, and well-being.

Our study also showed that - when students perceived that the support from the facilitator of the program was high - as well as especially strong reductions in their performance avoid orientation, participants also increased their learning orientation.

Learning orientation refers to an intrinsic focus on learning itself (sometimes called a 'growth mindset') and it has been shown to positively enhance training performance, job performance, innovation, and career success. The positive benefits of a supportive facilitator were even greater for individuals who tend to be quite anxious about their interpersonal relationships.

Practically, these findings mean:

- Dysfunctional goal orientations, and positive learning mindsets, can be enhanced via a carefully designed development intervention. This is one of the first intervention studies outside of an artificial laboratory that shows it is possible to grow a learning mindset.

- A supportive faciltator who shows warmth, caring and openness is very important in enabling this type of growth

- Some individuals - those who are anxious in their relationships with others - will especially benefit from a supportive facilitator in development programs

The read-only version of the article is available:

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