Grit: more essential now than ever.

swimIt’s the essential ingredient for success in the 2020s.  Grit is, for me, what makes watching top sports professionals so fascinating.  Often, they will have had very similar training and coaching programmes.  The technology that they use is mandated to be similar.  (There are sometimes exceptions when the rules of the sport are challenged by new tech.  Remember in 2008 when new swimsuits made from polyurethane led to over 200 world records being broken in months.  In 2010 the suits were banned.)  If the rules aren’t changed as in this example then anyway the benefit of the new tech soon becomes equalized as all major players get equivalent technology.  So the real excitement is seeing two equally balanced players or teams facing off at the top of their game.  The win comes from passion, talent, training and above all from Grit.

Grit is perseverance in the face of whatever life, your opponent and the business world throws at you.  Grit means resilience against adversity and an endless drive to improve.

As tech is equalized across our industry in the 20s in media owners and agencies with resource and scale then Grit will become the differentiator in terms of success.

Grit and talent don’t necessarily grow together.  Both can and must be nurtured.

First of all, Grit needs to be demonstrated from the top of the company.  Good leadership is a gritty business.  Single-minded focus on what needs to be achieved and a clear understanding of how to get there are crucial.  If any leader flip flops about decisions, or seems to flinch in tough times then this doesn’t help. Grit doesn’t mean getting there at all costs.  It means finding how to get there and still take everyone with you.  Leaving no-one behind and bringing out the best throughout the team.  And in turn with their own passion for a good outcome leaders with Grit will inspire everyone to fulfil their best potential.

Having said this, it is a good idea to hire people with Grit into your team in the first place.  It isn’t necessarily obvious in a job interview how gritty the candidate is.  Their cv will talk about their triumphs, not their grit.  So asking questions about sticking with situations that are difficult rather than quitting and encouraging stories about overcoming crisis can demonstrate people’s bounce back-ability.

A growth mindset is crucial too.  Setbacks provide the best opportunity to acquire Grit.  Does the head of your team ever tell you what mistakes they’ve made?  Clearly no-one wants someone who constantly gets things wrong in charge of the business, but creating a culture where people admit that they aren’t perfect and acknowledge the learning process is important.

Burying mistakes means no-one learns from them.  Sharing what went wrong, owning the error and the lessons learnt, helps everyone progress.

When  Alex Ferguson considered which players he’d introduce from the more junior teams into the top team he would play the candidate a video of their own role in a match, of something going wrong – possession lost or a goal scored by the opposing team – and ask them to talk through it.  There were two kinds of responses.  Those players who explained at length how everyone else was at fault: hadn’t been there to have the ball passed to them, had failed to defend properly.  And those who took responsibility for the error, and explained what they had learned from it, and embraced the loss to motivate future gains.  These second contingent were Ferguson’s future stars.  They showed Grit.

Make sure whatever else you introduce in 2020 you ensure a good amount of Grit.


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