Building a thriving, enduring business can often feel like an overwhelming task. For you as a business leader it can be easy to get caught up in the mindset that your people, technology, products and services will never be smart enough, fast enough, or valued enough to build the business that you’ve always dreamed of. As a result, we invest in training our people, adopt the latest technology and rolling out fancy new offerings only to see minimal change in results.

Navigating the complexities of a growing business can feel paralyzing at the best of times and trying to figure out the secret to break through them can become a hopeless pursuit. Thankfully, the answers to our most complex challenges are often found in simple solutions. The best kept secret of what separates successful people from everyone else is nothing more than grit. Grit is defined as the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals. Of course, you need great people and valued products and services but you will never reach best in class status without grit. It’s not glamorous but it’s effective.

In the book The Gold Mine Effect by Rasmus Ankersen the author studied six geographic regions which he called Gold Mines that have produced some of the world’s top performing athletes in staggeringly high numbers. He visited Kenya to research long distance runners, Ethiopia for middle distance runners, South Korea for female golfers, Brazil for soccer, Russia for women’s tennis and Jamaica for sprinters. In every single instance it wasn’t genetic, financial, facility or technological advantages that produced world class athletes in greater numbers than other regions in the world but, rather, it was deep rooted passion and unwavering pursuit of a long term goal that was the unique differentiator.

These findings are supported by Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth’s ground breaking research (click to view her TED Talk) that determined grit, and not IQ or perceived natural talent, was the number one predictor of success. This proved true for students who finished with top marks, top earning sales professionals, and which cadets would complete their military training vs those who dropped out. Take the “grit test” here.

Similarly, in Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the author noted that people are intrinsically motivated by the pursuit of mastery which, at times, can be a very difficult path filled with obstacles and struggles. Pink noted that only those individuals who possess grit have what it takes to persevere through these challenges to ultimately reach mastery. Everyone else gives up before they see the results they were chasing.

So what does this mean for you as a business leader and what can you do to instill grit into your company?

  1. Lead by example. It starts with you. As the leader you must be willing to demonstrate your own level of focus and determination. A president of a client company recently expressed to us that the single biggest mistake he made last year was expressing “execution fatigue” to his team. In other words, he let his foot off the gas pedal and gave everyone else implied permission to do the same. He’s since corrected that message and they are now thriving.
  2. Create an inspiring vision that paints a vivid picture of the company you want to create. A vision that focuses your people on a long term cause.
  3. Be relentless with your hiring and talent review processes. Only those who share passion for your Vision should be hired and retained.
  4. Commit to ongoing planning and rigorous execution. Grit is developed over time by having disciplined focus on updating your road map to success and implementing it at all levels of your organization.
  5. Ensure your people are in roles that they enjoy and have the skills to succeed in.
  6. Enlist 3rd party accountability. If you can’t keep yourselves accountable then bring in third party support. Eventually your habits will change for the better.

The good news for you as a business leader is that you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room but you must be willing to put in the work to achieve best in class results. How gritty is your team?

Article by: Jeff Tetz
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