“You’ll work hard when you’re young, or you’ll work hard when you’re old – working hard when you’re young is much easier.”
This quote from my father was passed down from his mother, and I let it go in one ear and out the other. Or maybe not. As I read “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” by Angela Duckworth, I realized what my dad had been telling me all along: It does not matter how smart you are; hard work and tenacity toward goals impact long-term success. Duckworth took me straight to the point: Grit is more important than talent, and grit predicts success! She looks at grit from many angles, including education, and says grit comes down to passion and perseverance, usually directed at a long-term goal.
This book got me thinking about how learning and development assesses performance. We don’t routinely consider grit when evaluating leaders and employees. How can we better predict effective learning application? With its long-term impacts on performance and culture, grit might be the answer.
While I could dig deep into the whys and hows of change management, let’s instead focus on the synergistic impact opportunity we have as learning leaders. How can we lead the way to a grittier, more effective organization?
1. Get Gritty.
We need to start by learning how much grit we have. One way is to take Angela Duckworth’s grit scale assessment here. Apply the concepts of grit personally. Recognize your own grit, and create your personal story. If we are going to use grit to drive organizational success, we need to own it in ourselves.
2. Create a Plan.
Starting with your organization’s leaders, share the research. Brainstorm ways the organization can become grittier. Have leaders create grit plans. The change really starts having an impact when leaders understand the importance of hiring and interviewing for grit instead of based on random resume information.
3. Identify and Recognize Grit.
Focus leaders on identifying current employees with grit and recognizing and rewarding their success. Have groups talk about times they had to work hard to accomplish a goal or overcome a failure. Ask those employees to share their best practices. People like to hear from successful peers. Show leaders how to identify perseverance and resilience in performance reviews so that the practice of finding and identifying grit becomes a habit.
4. Be a Connector.
Help connect gritty people to each other so they can share best practices and keep talking about them. Help people who want to have more grit connect to people who can help them set goals to develop it. Connect people to stories of role models with grit – for example, Michael Jordan, Shania Twain, Oprah or people who are relevant in their field.
5. Build Learning so that It Incorporates Grit.
Create learning programs that encourage and intentionally develop grit as part of the curriculum. If goals are too easy, the value of the learning is reduced; if they are too hard, motivation is lost. Use multimodal approaches to encourage people to learn about grit in layers. Allow safe practice space to fail, try again, fail and try again, and celebrate individual and team success through effort and drive. Give timely and specific feedback during learning. When a goal is clear and the milestone is in sight, it is easier for people to bounce back from failure. Track learners’ number of attempts, and praise personal accountability and effort. Talk about how people become better with practice. Frame failures as learning experiences. Problem-solve those failures together, with options and critical thinking. Encourage leaders to carry this practice through to real work.
6. Encourage People to Share What They Have Learned.
Talk about how small changes every day can impact grittiness. You may even want to start a monthly newsletter that identifies examples of grit in the organization and focuses on how people have applied what they have learned.
Learning is a marathon, but integrating grit can impact thinking, which will help drive behaviors and positively impact ROI. Success is measurable. Strategies that impact and grow grit can help learners develop a more promising learning journey.