The Highlands Company Blog

Mindset: A Backdrop for the Highlands Experience

The Highlands experience is built around the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB), a human assessment tool that objectively measures an individual’s natural abilities. Results are based on performance—that is, completing the 19 timed work samples or exercises—rather than on actual or desired self-perception. Doing rather than thinking about doing.

But the assessment does not indicate what individuals can or cannot do, nor where they can or cannot do it. Rather, it provides insights that people of all ages and career stages can use to create alignment between themselves and their work, as well as self-management tools and skill-building opportunities to handle situations that may feel challenging.

Although the Highlands Ability Battery is objective, people often take a subjective approach to digesting their results, attaching judgment to and making assumptions about their scores.  Why?

Throughout most of our lives—beginning as early as in the elementary school years—we’ve been culturally conditioned to view high scores as “good” and low scores as “bad.” But that’s not always the case. The player with the lowest score in a golf tournament wins. High blood pressure poses a risk to cardiovascular health. It takes a mindset shift to understand that scores on the HAB aren’t inherently good or bad—nor are they grades. There is no “crushing” or “failing” the assessment.

Still, people typically respond to and integrate them based on their mindset, beliefs that can influence the way they interpret their results, and more importantly, either sabotage or support their personal and professional growth.

In reality, understanding one’s natural talents and abilities allows people to steer themselves toward tasks and responsibilities that come relatively easily to them and away from those that don’t. This self-awareness can guide individuals toward work environments in which they’re most likely to thrive and roles and industries that draw upon and value their natural talents.

What Constitutes a Healthy Mindset?

Mindset matters throughout the Highlands experience … beginning with the decision to embark upon a journey to increase self-awareness.

It influences the way a person might feel as they experience the assessment (i.e., fun vs. frustrating; interesting vs. laborious). It sets the stage for the impact of the debrief session with a Highlands Certified Consultant … and, ultimately, how they choose to integrate the insights gained in the process into their career—and life.  Boiled down to basics, a healthy mindset is positive, flexible and focused on growth.

Negative vs. Positive Mindset

Consider the example of Taylor and Tyler. Both score in the high range for Idea Productivity, a driving ability that measures a person’s ability to generate a flow of ideas within a given period of time. Idea Productivity doesn’t measure the quality or originality of ideas, simply the quantity. Here’s how they respectively respond to their scores:

Taylor: “Oh, I’ve always been great at persuading others. I know I’d enjoy a career in sales—and be pretty good at it.”

Tyler: “Yeah, I can brainstorm ideas all day, but I’m terrible at following through on any of them. Things never get done under my watch.”

The same glass: one half full, the other half empty. Who is more likely to use this kernel of self-awareness constructively?

A positive mindset isn’t forced. In fact, false positivity—sugar-coating—can be dismissive, failing to acknowledge the reality of challenge. Authentic positivity facilitates a healthier approach, embracing and appreciating the wins and facing challenges with optimism.

Rigid vs. Flexible Mindset

A popular improv exercise called “Yes, and …” illustrates the power of language.  The rule is simple: Replace “but” with “and.” Notice the difference a three-letter word can make when “I’d like to do run a marathon, but I can’t because I don’t have the endurance” becomes “I’d like to do run a marathon, and I can take small steps to build my endurance.”

People with a rigid mindset are the ones that often lament “it is what it is.” They tend to hold onto outdated or inefficient approaches to thinking, being and doing. This mindset stems from black-and-white (or all-or-nothing) thinking. (It’s on or it’s off. This works or it doesn’t. We’re doing it like this because this is always how it’s been done.) And it can be incredibly limiting.

A flexible mindset invites opportunity. And it’s imperative for personal and professional growth.

Individuals with a flexible mindset are more open to trying new ways of doing things or approaching challenges. They typically take a more balanced approach to situations, understanding that one size doesn’t always fit all, appreciating fluidity and embracing innovation.

Fixed vs. Growth Mindset

Some individuals believe that they are who they are, know what they know, and, often, that they’re somehow less-than because of what they’re not. Trapped within the confines of a fixed mindset, they often feel stuck.

Others believe that change is possible. They’re curious and willing to explore new ways of doing and being. With a strong conviction that “I can grow,” the sky really is the limit. This growth mindset invites myriad opportunities, opening doors rather than closing them.

Carol Dweck, Ph.D., author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success introduced the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset over 30 years ago to reflect how a person views their capacity to learn. The research she and her colleagues conducted found that, “When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger. Therefore, they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement.”

When approached with a growth mindset, the Highlands experience can be a game changer. While the Highlands Ability Battery helps people understand their natural gifts, it also offers a wide array of insights and strategies to help them grow. A person’s scores reflect their “home base,” from which they can skill-build up and down the continuum as they choose—or are required to do to perform on the job and in life.

An Example

Specialized Abilities, considered “helpers and enhancers,” help individuals recognize and maximize their strongest learning channels and acknowledge those that may not come naturally. Armed with this information, people at any age or career stage can develop strategies to efficiently and effectively take in new information.

Verbal Memory, for example, measures a person’s ability to recall information through reading.  Through the lens of a fixed mindset, a person might reflexively respond to a low score with “I’m a terrible reader; I can’t do anything that involves a lot of reading.” End of story.

On the flip side, a person with a growth mindset is more likely to 1) accept that Verbal Memory isn’t a strong natural learning channel for them; 2) give themselves grace for doing their best; and 3) embrace strategies that rely on their stronger learning channels to supplement and reinforce their Verbal Memory.

Change Your Mindset … Change Your Future

Dr. Dweck’s mindset research has, itself, grown based on further neuroscientific studies discovering that “the brain is far more malleable” than once thought—and that people can create new and/or stronger neuropathways through strategic efforts. If an individual believes they can learn, change or grow, they are far more likely to take the steps to achieve success in endeavors large and small.

From practicing cognitive reframing exercises to engaging in deep work with a coach, counselor or other career practitioner certified in the Highlands Ability Battery, there are many ways for individuals to tweak or shift their mindset. And it’s work worth doing. In the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The Highlands Ability Battery, a valuable lifelong tool to guide career decisions, empowers individuals to make proactive decisions throughout the turning points and transitions in their lives. Bringing a healthy mindset to the Highlands experience allows for meaningful, insightful conversation and contemplation during the debrief—and far beyond.

Mardee Handler, Marketing Director for the Highlands Company and Career Exploration Coach at Mardee Handler Coaching & Consulting

It’s never too early — or too late — to pave the right career path. Rather than leaving that path to chance, you can proactively create it by making informed, intentional choices along the way.

As a certified Highlands consultant, I enjoy empowering people of all ages and career stages to explore their career options with greater precision and finesse.”


Challenging the Theory of a Fixed Mindset