Grit is the ability to push through barriers and be extraordinary. It is part of what makes a person stand out from their peers. I’ve been reminded about the importance of grit twice within the last few weeks—first from a keynoter, Linda Kaplan Thaler, who is an expert on the topic and author of the upcoming book Grit to Great.
The other reminder came this week from my daughter’s fourth grade teacher, Mr. Cameron, who talked about having grit in his Tip of the Week.
Both shared how grit helps us push through challenges. They believe grit means hard work, not giving up, and always trying your best. Linda Kaplan Thaler shared the latest research on success and the strategies that helped her succeed at the highest levels in both her career and her personal life. Mr. Cameron was preparing the students for state testing. When I asked him about grit, he said, “There will be times when a question or task is going to be very challenging, and it’s important for our students to have a strong sense of what grit can do to help. Having grit means you’re not going to just guess and move on—it means you dig down, try your hardest, and work your way through the problem.”
Action Steps for Leaders
As leaders, we need to develop grit in ourselves as well as our people. In addition to digging down and trying hard, I’d like to suggest a third strategy—finding meaning. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Identify true passion. We inspire grit when we help our direct reports identify their true passion—something they love to do so much, they lose track of time. Think about the activities you love to do. When you are doing them, do you find yourself working harder to break through the barriers?
- Shift the motivational outlook. In our newly released Optimal Motivation learning program, we assist people in shifting their motivational outlook—finding a higher purpose for engaging in a goal or task. Susan Fowler, one of the authors of the program, talks about the importance of helping people discover how their jobs can meet deeper psychological needs. She shares scientific evidence that proves people find sustainable motivation when this discovery happens.
- Push the boundaries. Some of my best coaching experiences have been when a coach has said things such as “why not you?” and “write your ideal job and then go after it” and “manage your career to leverage your strengths and your passions.” More often than not, our self-talk limits our ability to push the boundaries. It’s that inner voice that says “I can’t” or “I’ll never be able to.” Help your people to push their perceived boundaries and set stretch goals. Be the positive voice and accountability coach they need.
Inspire your people
As Linda Kaplan Thayer shared, grit is showcased by people who have a deep motivation to do what they do. As managers, we can help our people tap into that motivation.
What do you believe inspires people to have grit? In my experience, it is a combination of a meaningful purpose and a will to succeed. Leaders have a role to play here. At the end of the day, leadership equates to influence and influence can inspire and generate motivation. Your leadership could be just what your people need to be able to push through challenges and showcase their grit.
About the Author
Joni Wickline is Vice President, Professional Services with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read Wickline’s posts as a part of Coaching Tuesday here at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.