Grit, Graft, and Getting Over It.


true-grit-blu-ray-sliceImage via [source]

This week, NPR had an interesting segment on the perceived importance of “grit” and the movement to teach it in schools. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, grit is another name for “resilience” or “pluck”. The internet tells me that “ballsy” and “cojones” are synonyms for grit, but it’s not a gender-specific trait (see Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks, and Tami Taylor). I will concede that True Pluck would be an unlikely name for a wild west movie.

The NPR segment featured studies and commentary by Angela Duckworth, who co-authored an excellent article for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology called Grit: Perseverance and passion for long term goals. More recently, Duckworth shared her research in the TED talk [title]. After also reading educator Vicki Davis’s top 10 tips for teaching grit, I’d like to impart the following tips for building grit at work:

1. Recognize Grit
If there’s an inspiring story in your organisation and someone’s willing to share it, let your employees know about it. Working people take on amazing challenges outside of work, from marathons to caring responsibilities, and techniques for dealing with difficulties can be useful for changes at work. Profiles of ordinary people overcoming remarkable events can be found in books like David and Goliath, charity case studies, and everyday conversation. Davis recommends Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture and David Menasche’s Priority List.

2. Know Thyself
Duckworth’s grit scale test allows you to measure your grit by answering a questionnaire. You’ll find it easier to discuss grittiness if you can identify it for yourself. Davis cites the need to “Empower students to educate themselves”, and this rings true for adults with their habits, perspectives and motives for learning.

3. Get Perspective
In David and Goliath, Malcom Gladwell’s encourages readers to see “desirable difficulties” when faced with a challenge, a concept that Davis also advocates when teaching grit.

The ability to get through challenges and move on is essential at work. Encouraging employees to reframe challenges gives them the fuel to persevere through not-fun work tasks.

For example, learning bits of CSS code for the Grievance Report was no easy feat, though I wanted the end result; to change its layout.  Now that I’ve taken some time to learn that technical skill, I find it easier to get through other blog tasks.

4. Make a Framework
Create a culture that encourages employees to work through challenges in a healthy way. You can take steps to do this by recognising challenging work situations and promoting resources for employees to deal with issues. For example, employees with good attendance may sometimes be recognized, but an employee who works from home during recovery will stand out, because that takes grit. Encouraging grittiness at work can influence your team’s attitude towards tough work changes like budget deficits, redundancies, and their ilk.

Grittiness is an excellent trait to cope with the everyday stresses of life. If you develop and promote grit at work, you gain a level of performance and teamwork that can’t be bought.

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