6 Minute Read – Angela Duckworth, the premier advocate of grit and University of Pennsylvania Professor of Psychology, defines grit as the perseverance and passion for achieving long term goals. Grit is not to be confused with talent, luck, or the desire to want something in the moment. In short, it’s a continued dedication an objective despite obstacles, slow progress, or paused progress.
Grit is the force that allows a head of sales to power through pressures from executives and board members, a sales rep to work towards quota, or a customer success manager to create solutions for users. There are countless examples, but the point is grit is an crucial trait from top to bottom. It’s the key ingredient to trudging through the many internal and external pressures.
From the perspective of leadership, here are 5 ways to instill grit within your department and ultimately, your entire organization.
1) Hire for Grit
In your interview and screening process, you’re likely already asking questions and seeking characteristics of grit. To prod a prospective hire, ask questions like “How do you bounce back from a defeat?” or, “Have you ever identified a challenge in the workplace, devised a solution, and executed the plan?”
Interviewees with experience in the trenches will have articulate stories of how they missed their number and came back to hit 200% the next quarter or how they created a marketing campaign for an untapped segment to hit lead-gen goals.
Grit largely stems from the mind, so be sure to get an understanding of how candidates carry themselves through hardships. Do they maintain positivity or succumb to a negative mindset? If their answer includes methods of how they handle stress in a healthy manner, you likely have a resilient winner.
2) Communicate Challenges
If something has the potential to suck, let people know.
Of course, there will always challenges that are the sole responsibility of the executive leadership to solve. These are the discretionary decisions management has to make every day.
However, leadership can and should strive to be as transparent as possible with their reports, especially if their reports have grit. A resilient team will adapt to challenges as they arise. With advanced noticed, they can better use their skills and experiences to create solutions.
A soft team that has little communication will be hit much harder by challenges when they finally surface. This will also cause them to quickly lose trust and motivation if they find out for themselves or have little insight into what management is doing to solve a problem. Teams will likely see right through the “sunshine and rainbows” if leadership paints such a picture.
What if your team is young or inexperienced? Sure, you won’t share a problem with a new hire the same way you would a seasoned executive, adjust your messaging accordingly. But remember, challenges are a platform for unproven employees to earn their stripes, don’t deprive them of their right to grow.
If you communicate challenges to your team, they’ll own the solution. If you don’t, they’ll own the excuse.
3) Tie Goals to Tangible Metrics and Hold Accountability
Never underestimate the importance of the follow-through. If there’s a spiff for the sale team, close the loop one way or another. Don’t let months go by before issuing the reward – even is it’s a silly one. If expectations aren’t balanced, effectiveness of future spiffs or contests will be diminished. The last thing any sales leader wants to see when announcing a new contest is the collective rolling of eyes across the room.
Development is sure to face challenges and delays to release schedules, but that doesn’t mean it should become a recurring theme just because it happened in a previous sprint. Regardless of the business unit, if there’s a delay then management should identify the root cause and solve it so it doesn’t repeat itself.
4) Lead by Example
Culture is often driven by the frontlines, but usually enabled from the top-down. Employees are quick to pick up on the habits of their successful executives and will be dragged down by negativity and poor leadership of others.
Department heads and executives should operate as if they’re always being watched. If the CEO is a role model for the rest of the C-Suite, then the rest of the C-Suite are role models to their departments heads, then to middle managers, etc. Even the trickle down effect that a senior member has on a younger employee can’t be ignored.
“As Iron Sharpens Iron, So Does One Man Sharpen Another”
5) Champion Grit when Displayed
Is someone on the team exhibiting a display of grit? Say something! The product specialist that works 12+ hour days to support sales without complaint deserves recognition. Unsung heroes in operations, finance, and accounting also deserve to be recognized for their wins.
It’s typical to pat someone on the back when they’re doing well in a good situation. It’s necessary to pat someone on the back that’s doing well in a bad situation. These don’t exactly need to be grand gestures of appreciation. A shoutout in a meeting, a group email, or a small gift card will often suffice. The minimal cost in time and funds is always well worth the boost in morale.
For (a lot) more information on grit, we recommend Angela Duckworth’s teachings and her audiobook!