A lot has been written about leading teams and the attributes essential to high performance. Passion, energy, talent, commitment is true of successful teams. In our years of leading teams what we have observed is there is one key ingredient that binds it all together, and that is grit.
What is grit?
Angela Duckworth’s research has brought this obscure word into mainstream vocabulary. Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely for the moment you want something. Grit is having the ultimate concern for achieving a goal and it drives and gives purpose to all that you do. Grit is going again and again even when you fall down, hit barriers and get it wrong. Grit enables peak performance. As our world increases in complexity, peak performance is a must.
Comfortable being uncomfortable?
At Ignite Purpose we see the ramifications for operating in the comfort zone. We do not think that it is an overstatement to say as humans we like to feel uncomfortable. During the last century, our world has fast developed (communication, innovation, technology etc.) and focussed on eliminating discomfort. In our research and client engagement, we have seen how pain and discomfort usually equal real problems leading to teams operating in the comfort zone, the safe zone. Teams operating in the comfort zone are always comfortable and satisfied and they take no risks.
If you are lucky enough to have talent your team you can easily operate in the comfort zone and may still achieve yet you will eventually become irrelevant and your talent not is enough to sustain future results or passion. Alternatively; you and your team might just get a lucky break and operate in the comfort zone, where simply doing the job without fuss is easier and relatively rewarding therefore why stretching into discomfort? This leads to a lack of passion and purpose and often there is much drama in these team environments as that is what people tend to focus on if they are relatively successful.
Teams with grit
Teams with grit rarely operate in the comfort zone. Consider the Achievement Pyramid, we know as people and organisations we need to strive for peak performance in order to actually achieve and survive in a changing world. This means acknowledging the need to be gritty.
Being gritty is comfortable with being uncomfortable, accepting no limits. Grit is staying on course until we succeed, gritty teams have tremendous focus. Having grit means people and teams are fully committed to the goal, we bring together new ideas, hard work, show ambition and dedication. We trust our gut more when we have grit; intuition over rational mind. When there is true grit present there is courage despite fear. We are stronger minded and mentally tough. Challenge can’t throw us off track, opportunities are “seen” and the person and team forgo perfection for high standards.
Gritty people and teams know what is important we understand the difference between being busy and being successful and align our actions to priorities because that’s the approach that best moves us towards our goal.
The most exciting thing is that you can create a culture of grit. In our experience organisations hire for competence, experience and the ability to communicate, grit is not measured but it’s the person with grit who will out surpass their peers. So, we can hire grittier people…. But how do we create grittier teams?
We believe there are 5 focus areas to help you develop gritty teams:
1. Model grittier behaviour
Passion is contagious, model the gritty behaviour you are looking for. What does determination and work ethic look like that will take you to your goal? Walk the walk, talk the talk always. It’s leadership 101, more than any other member of the team the leader must be comfortable with the prospect of taking risk, getting it wrong and being uncomfortable.
2. Communicating a vision
If grit is the combination of passion and perseverance, your job is to inspire passion by creating a vision of your team’s success and connecting their work to this vision. Your vision states where your team will be at a future date, it must be challenging, something that is above and beyond the normal expectations. It should also be attainable, that is, realistic enough to be achievable if your team stretch a bit.
Your team’s vision should also specify some positive change that you are committed to realising through concerted effort. In fact, vision grows from an intense desire to make something positive happen. You have to communicate the vision in a way that matters to people, writing it up once won’t engage the hearts and minds.
At Ignite Purpose we support many organisations visions the ones that inspire best are communicated consistently in a different format. Telling a story is by far the most engaging as is making memories. Create metaphors, figures of speech and slogans – and find creative ways to use them.
3. Set high expectations
Set the bar high. Expectations must be communicated in a way that everyone understands what they need to do to support the team and the vision. Show the path to get there, and celebrate when expectations are met and exceeded. A key to implementing high expectations in your team is to realize that “high expectations” is, in fact, something you do, not just believe. The term self-fulfilling prophecy means that we perform in ways in which our leaders expect, never underestimate the incredible positive power of simply expecting the most out of our people.
4. Create a motivated environment
Developing a gritty team requires creating a competitive, fun environment that encourages people to dig deep and excel. Human beings can be complex characters —driven by their primary needs, who is influencing them, and what motivates each emotion and behaviour they often choose to use. In our practice, we use a Talents Insight tool (DISC and WORKPLACE MOTIVATORS). This tool helps support leaders and people to unearth individual’s motivators and ways of connection and communication. Imagine being capable of leveraging the very best from each employee via a keen understanding of how to harness each employee’s inherent needs and values.
5. Coach to improve performance
Grit can be developed, and it should be encouraged and coached. High performing organisations operate with a spirit of improvement. As a leader, how you manage and coach should create an open dialogue to discuss performance and identify opportunities for improvement. Coaching used to be about performance – doing and achievement. We believe coaching underpins behaviour change. By understanding motivations of personal fulfilment – the “why” we are able to create an environment of choice and desire where people step into stretch and growth for themselves, their leaders, customer and organisations. We know when this happens we can stretch into peak performance where people and teams are comfortable being uncomfortable and leaders can continue to set the bar for high performance.
Getting grittier for high performance is not just a nice to have it’s a must-have! Working with your people and team to forge grit and align performance is, without doubt, your key to success in 2018. It will take courage; the right mindset, discipline and it will mean you as a leader need to forge the way and show your grit!
We regularly discuss accountability and performance with leaders and acknowledge the most powerful tool of accountability, performance and the foundation to grit is choice. Help your people choose to be gritty and see the return of growth, courage and the choice to be uncomfortable more often to lean into high performance.