by Michael Holland     

Why is it that some employees are just heads and tails above others?  It’s not that they are the most talented in the bunch, though they do have some talent.  And it’s not that they work the hardest all the time, though they do work hard. Rather, it is more that they work hard every day with persistence towards the long term goal that has been established, persevering through obstacles to keep moving the ball forward.  They have a tenacity- or zeal, or passion- for the work at hand.

Psychologists who have studied this particular attribute have labeled it “grit” (here’s a great TED video on the topic).  Grit is the desire that drives a person toward goals, ends, or objectives when others would just give up and go home. Grit is the reason that tenacious, above-average athletes can make it through Navy Seal training while the most talented national athletes simply give up.  Individuals with grit have a positive, optimistic perspective of the long term: they are more focused on winning the marathon than the sprint.

There’s an expectation of you as a leader to be able to build and focus on the long term goals while motivating others towards these goals.  The Wright brothers were able to do this.  Abraham Lincoln was able to do this.  And thousands of no-name managers, supervisors, foremen, VPs, and CEOs have been able to do this.  These leaders weren’t the most talented people out there, they didn’t have the perfect pedigrees for leadership, and they didn’t take a magic pill to become gritty leaders. They were already gritty.

The same can be said about some of your employees:  they are already gritty.  The deep question you should be asking yourself is this: how do I enable and cultivate the grit that each employee already has?

  1. Start by getting you own Grit Score.  Go to this page and scroll down to the bottom and locate the Get Your Grit Score link in the table.
  2. Watch the TED video.
  3. Create a scoring for how you see your employees’ grit level.
  4. Think hard about 3 or 4 employees and how you could better enable their work environment to cultivate their grittiness.

Finally, add this book to your summer reading list and awaken those biased perceptions which may be hindering your people decisions: Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Take a moment to think about, then answer the question posed at the end of this Leadership Learning Moment: “How do I enable and cultivate the grit that each employee already has?”
  • What about yourself? What are some ways that you can enable and cultivate your own grit?