Future of Work — 5 April 2018

Grit and the importance of fostering resilience in your workplace

Do more with grit

What is grit or grit psychology?

Resilience, tenacity, self-motivation. These are just some of the ways grit manifests in us. Dr Angela Lee Duckworth describes grit as, “…the quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time.” It is the ability to more than just bounce back from failure, but to continue to work hard almost continuously, coping with the stress where others would give up. It’s about finishing the race when you’re dead last. It’s seeing a failure as just a necessary step to achieve what you want.

In Carol Dweck’s influential Ted Talk on motivation and believing that you can always improve, she talks about, “The power of yet.” Carol explains how a shift in thinking from grades and final results to an educational journey, creates a ‘growth mindset’, grit and the desire to overcome a challenge. She goes on to explore how this approach is helping turn struggling schools into successful ones by imploring the children to develop and overcome obstacles and not run from them. This grit is transforming the fortunes of children and can have the same impact in business. All you have to do is find a way to cultivate grit in your team.

How to foster grit in the workplace

Imagine a workplace where a failure was met with enthusiasm and learned from readily. What about an organisation where teams would tackle new challenges hungrily and deliver on projects time and time again. And finally, picture a team that craves and demands feedback and is able to take criticism in its stride. Well, according to Thomas R. Hoerr, PhD, author of the book Fostering Grit, and Scholar in Residence at the University of Missouri-St.Louis, this is not a utopian workplace ideal, but a realistic working environment. “There are some key lessons to be learned from how schools are fostering grit in its students and classrooms,” says Thomas.

Outlined below are his six tips for engaging your teams and inspiring grit in their work:

1. Establish the working environment

“You need to create an environment where people feel safe and recognise that improvements are as important as the end goal,” says Thomas. “It is also important that you, as a leader, understand how your team will likely react to a new challenge or frustration and manage that effectively.”

2. Set realistic expectations

“Have an on-going dialogue with your team about grit,” says Thomas. “It will help instil the idea that there are good failures and that there are always lessons to be learned from and improvements to be made.”

3. Teach the vocabulary of grit

“Grit should be in everyone’s vocabulary and reinforced at every opportunity,” says Thomas. “This should include team meetings and personal feedback sessions. The more you talk about it the better.”

4. Set goals and stretch

“When people stay within their comfort zones you don’t get new ideas, innovation and creativity,” says Thomas. “Encourage your team to identify where their limits are and then implement goals which force them outside of those boundaries.”

5. Monitor the experience

“Implement regular intervals to elicit feedback from your team through a project to understand when they are most frustrated and need your help,” says Thomas. “It is all a part of knowing your team but it helps to inform them that you are in it with them and available for support when needed.”

6. Reflect and learn

“As with all things, you must reflect, learn and improve the process,” says Thomas. “It is a two-way street and a great opportunity to identify good failures and the lessons to be learned.”

Create a grit culture

Grit is now considered to be equally as important, if not more so, than natural talent. But luckily, it is something that can be taught and fostered. What is difficult about it is keeping those expectations over time.

Introduce grit into your annual reviews and work with your team to create long-term goals around it. Employees with more grit are more determined and motivated. It is up to you as a leader to choose to develop grit in your team and then stick to it. Those who do are likely to be the ones that are more successful long-term. Get your team committed and build a culture of grit that delivers the results you are after.

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