Is Grittiness one of the Keys to Success?

By |Published On: April 15, 2014|

I like to read but don’t make enough time for it.  In particular I like to read biographies.  I suppose I like biographies because they give me insights into what makes leaders tick – as you know that’s something in which I am very interested.  Currently I’m reading David McCullough’s “Truman”.  So far, an excellent book – like all of McCullough’s works.

But reading books takes me a long time – I don’t get the chance anymore to read them everyday.  So I’ve also become a reader of blog postings and online newsletters – mostly on – you guessed it, leadership.

Today, I read an interesting article in an online newsletter I read regularly called “strategy + business”.  The article is an interview with a psychologist (Angela Duckworth) who is a recent MacArthur Fellow who has a theory about how “grit” contributes to success in life.  Read the article here.

“Grit” or “Grittiness” is hard to define but you probably have a mental picture of it already – grinding your teeth, sweating, pulling out all the stops to accomplish something.  Ms. Duckworth defines grit as perseverance and sustained commitment to accomplish a goal.  As I read this, I was shaking my head up and down in agreement.  Makes sense to me.

It also occurs to me that people I have known with “grit” were to a great extent successful.  (Though they weren’t always great leaders – they sure could get the job done).  But as a leader, I certainly want people on my team that are “gritty”.  So how do I make that work in my business?

Duckworth had some interesting suggestions:

1.  Give people a job they can get passionate about.  Duckworth says, “…employees with grit are deeply and enduringly motivated by work they find meaningful”.

2.  Make it worth their while to put forth the grittiness to get the job done.  When it’s over, they have to feel there was a benefit or value to them for the effort they put forth.  (That doesn’t always mean financial value – it could just mean they understand and truly feel you value their efforts).

3.  Clearly define expectations for your employees.  They have to know that success is possible and that the goals you’ve established for them are realistic.  Of course to leverage the grittiness, the goals also have to be a stretch.

Good luck finding the right formula of grittiness for your team.


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