How to Build Grit

Grit matters in today’s government space of hiring freezes, budget cuts, the demise of the administrative state and endless uncertainty and ambiguity. There are numerous studies that confirm that grit is a key indicator of success in all walks of life. Here are a few examples of grit in the workplace:

In a 2014 study by Lauren Eskreis Winkler and others from the University of Pennsylvania Department of Psychology, they demonstrated that the grittiest individuals are:

• 28% more likely to make it through the grueling, 24-day Army Special Operation Forces selection course.
• 21% more likely to graduate from the rough and tumble Chicago, IL public high schools on time.
• 17% more likely to stay married as men.

Deliberate Practice
In a 1993 study by K. Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Florida State University and others, tracked the practice habits of violinists ages 5-20 across four categories: (1) best students; (2) good students; (3) teachers and (4) professionals.

They discovered that the best students displayed more grit due to the way they deliberately practiced their trade. They did not just show up every day and practice by going through the motions. They worked their craft in incremental steps by not moving on to more challenging material until they mastered their current trials.

Cumulative Progress
The Great Britain Olympic Bicycling Team hit an all-time low in medal wins in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics. To address this trend, they did a top to bottom analysis of their operations that included engineering studies on their equipment and strict diet and training regimens for their bicyclists. They realized they did not need to rush their review since they had 4 years until the next Olympics to get it right. Their strategy was based on a sequential mastery of each objective as they did not move on to the next challenge until the current results demonstrated progress.

Through grit they were able to produce some staggering results. In the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, they quadrupled their gold medal gains and tripled their silver medal hauls.

Frequent Reviews
In 2014, Bersin by Deloitte looked at the question as to what separates great companies from mediocre firms.

They found that over 50% of companies who grind through tedious monthly reviews of their goals are in the top quartile for financial performance.

In companies where goals were reviewed once a year, only 24% made it into the same bracket.

Gritty people are rewarded with the same results. They are seldom satisfied with the status quo and constantly shine the flashlight on themselves for continuous improvement

Failure Is Not an Option
Apollo 13 was supposed to be the USA’s third lunar landing. The mission was cut short when an oxygen tank exploded crippling the vessel. Despite limited power, loss of cabin heat and shortage of water, the crew returned safely after making repairs to the craft.

The phrase “failure is not an option” was coined by Bill Broyles, one of the screen writers of the movie “Apollo 13” after interviewing members of the mission control crew in preparation for the film. The memorable expression exhibited the character of the people in Mission Control as they kept calm and never panicked as the undertaking cascaded toward failure. They calmly went through all the options until that found the correct solution. Despite numerous equipment failures, the mission was ultimately saved through human grit.

Use Good Judgement
Gritty people make good decisions. The same thing goes for gritty organizations. Nordstrom department stores fall into this category. They consistently have the highest customer service ratings year after year in their industry.

They attribute their success to one thing. Their employee handbook has one sentence in it. It demands employees make good decisions all the time. They trust their employees to slog through the difficult minefield of customer interactions and make the best determinations for their shoppers.

Lean On Supportive Networks
Resolute people realize they need help every now and again. They are smart enough to understand their network needs to be diverse with folks outside their comfort level in order to share the stress they are feeling, boost their stick-to-itiveness and maximize their possibilities for greatness.

Happy With Their Choices
Gritty colleagues come to terms with the choices they make by making sure they have plenty of options. This practice was confirmed in 1975 by D.J Reibstein and others on the relationship between the number of choices people have as a factor in their satisfaction and consumer behavior.

They observed two groups of volunteers who were asked to fill cups of soda. In the first group, they were given 2 cups. The average fill time for their cups was 3.29 seconds. The second group was given 5 cups. The average fill time for their cups was 5.17 seconds. The second group almost double the fill time of the first group. The more options people have to push through the more likely they will make better decisions.

Grit happens with toughness, deliberate practice, cumulative progress, frequent reviews, confidence, good judgement, supportive networks and multiple choices. It is the formula for maximum human achievement available to everyone-particularly those with grit.

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