How Employees with Grit Rise to the Top

How You Can Develop Grit in Your Team

Employees with grit are more determined and motivated. Leaders can intentionally choose to develop grit in their team to achieve greater long term success.

One of my first employees was brilliant. His resume was sparkling, and he interviewed like a champ. Months later when I put him on a tough assignment, he got frustrated and whined about how unfair all this tedious work was.

Then, he somehow managed to “delegate” the difficult project to a young temp on our team. She didn’t have the experience or technical knowledge, but through her persistence and creativeness she managed to get it done. I hired that temp to join my team.

Guess who has had more success over the last 10 years? The employee who showed more grit. That former temp is now a director.

Grit is the perseverance and passion for long-term goals, and this success trait does not only play out at the office.

Research by Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania, proves that grit is a greater predictor of success than IQ or leadership potential.

This shows up across a variety of disciplines:

  • West Point cadets with more grit are 60% more likely to finish hell week (aka “The Beast”)
  • Ivy League students with more grit have higher GPAs even if their SATs are lower
  • National Spelling Bee competitors with more grit outperform their peers even when the competition has higher IQs

You probably don’t even need science to prove this out. Remember that high school friend on your team who wasted his talent? Or the person who was in the teacher’s office every morning before school to get extra help so they could do better on the next test? That’s the difference grit makes.

But, there is a glaring grit gap in organizations. Most annual reviews cover things like leadership impact, effective communication, intelligent risk taking, and getting results. These are important but incomplete.

Give your team a success boost by helping them intentionally develop grit. Here’s how.

1. Explain the Importance of Grit

Even if there is not a box to check in your team’s annual review for “grit,” explain the importance for the team members’ long-term success. Start by forwarding them this article, showing Angela Duckworth’s TED talk on grit in your next staff meeting, or having a conversation about how grit can be helpful in achieving their long term goals.

2. Share Your Team’s Most Important Goal

When the goal is clear and especially when the end is in sight, it’s easier for your team to maintain resilience. But, when is the last time you clearly communicated your team’s most important goal? Or, if the end goal is a long way off, have you clearly defined the next key milestone?

3. Ask Your Team to Commit

Leaders often pass down goals to their team members but rarely ask for their commitment to those goals.

Many leaders assume that the team is committed, and this is a mistake. An uncommitted team just goes through the motions.

To instill grit, ask for your team’s initial commitment; then, regularly ask if they are still committed to achieving those original goals. If they are not, have a conversation for commitment right then, versus asking at the end of the year when it is annual review time.

4. Track Consistent Progress

This simple process helps ensure long term team and individual continuity and avoids burnout.

Emphasize taking frequent small actions towards your team’s big goals instead of cramming right before a big deadline. You can do this by deciding on a daily action that contributes to the longer goal, and then track your team’s progress.

5. Tell Stories of True Grit

Share your own personal experiences of when you faced a set back and then fought to overcome it. These are stories that prioritize daily discipline to hit the longer term goal.

You can also provide video clips of others who have shown grit like Nick Vujicic and Kid President.

6. Frame Failure As An Opportunity For Learning

Instead of hiding mistakes or blaming others for failure, ask your team to talk about what they have learned. This focuses their attention in more creative ways.

7. Show Your Team How They Already Have Grit

Help your team identify a time when they have shown grit. Ask your team to think of a tough experience they got through. This is the proof they can persevere, and it lays the foundation for them to build upon in the future.

Here’s to developing more grit in your team!

Ben

P.S: Download my free report, 7 Strategies for Senior Leaders To Get the Most Out of Their Workforce

A modified version of this article originally appeared in Ben Fanning’s Inc Magazine column

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