Organizational Grit: The Foundation For Perseverance & Sustained Success

In Corporate America, those who have reached the highest levels of success are the ones who are not content with being average. The ones who avoid complacency, holding a deep-rooted desire to improve themselves in all aspects of life. Oftentimes, they’ve turned their passion into a profession, and remain committed despite multiple challenges, obstacles or required sacrifices that arise over time. 

In essence, they are in love with the process. Not just the results. 

Those combined strengths reflect a characteristic called “grit.” According to Merriam-Webster’s definition, grit is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Right now, you can probably think of someone you know who embodies the qualities of grit. Or, maybe it’s you. Regardless, we all should strive to apply grit to our professional lives. It benefits everyone – yourself, your co-workers and your organization – and can ultimately serve as a differentiator between mediocre results and extraordinary achievements. 

5 Characteristics of Grit 

Angela Lee Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, hosted a TedTalk on the power of grit. She broke it down into five characteristics:   

  • Endurance: Endurance is best reflected by following through on long-term goals, which provides context and meaning to your passions, purpose, drive, stamina and courage. It acts as the “why” behind your hard work. 
  • Courage: Courage is your ability to overcome fears and rebound from failure. We are all human and make mistakes, but those with grit embrace them as learning opportunities. 
  • Resilience: Resilience is a focal aspect of grit. It keeps you moving forward with a confident, optimistic and creative approach amidst trials & tribulations. 
  • Conscientiousness: Conscientious people aren’t just dependable. They are often achievement-oriented and, rather than just showing up, will strive to consistently perform to the best of their ability. 
  • Excellence: Although the concepts of excellence and perfection are similar in general meaning, they actually contrast when it pertains to grit. Those with grit strive to be excellent – which prioritizes improvement instead of perfection –  and won’t allow minute failures to impact their progression. 

How to Develop Organizational Grit

Organizational grit allows businesses to accomplish challenging goals, exceed expectations and achieve sustained success. A team consisting of gritty employees is a focused and confident bunch driven by a healthy, competitive spirit. From an organizational standpoint, it starts from the top down. Leaders with grit inspire their teams to follow suit. 

Use these methods to institute a culture of grit in your workplace.  

  1. Explain the characteristics of grit to your employees to give them a better understanding of how it can benefit both their own performance and the organization as a whole. Forward a link to Duckworth’s TedTalk in a mass email, and then schedule a team meeting to highlight its key points and share personal experience of situations that required grit. 
  2. When it comes to grit, I often think back to an ancient African proverb that states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The same can be said about a gritty culture.  Whether it’s achieving a projected quarterly profit margin or meeting deadlines on a series of projects, developing a common organizational goal fosters the characteristics of grit more than a situation where each employee is prioritizing their own individual desires. 
  3. Create an environment where grit thrives, and it starts with the concept of commitment. If commitment is one of the core values of your organization, employees will rely on grit to meet expectations. On the other hand, it will be quite difficult to accomplish a set of goals if your entire team is not fully committed to success. Just think about the Pittsburgh Steelers. Each of the six years they won the Super Bowl, all 53 players on the roster remained committed to doing their part for the entire season. However, when everyone was not completely bought in, as we’ve seen in recent times, the team failed to fulfill its championship aspirations. 
  4. Instead of negatively reacting to your employee’s failures or mistakes, use them as a tool for teaching. It is an effective way to cultivate the confidence needed to project grit. When your employees aren’t afraid of potential consequences from failure, they will be further inclined to think outside the box and take risks that can benefit your organization. 

In my experience, I’ve found that instilling a spirit of grit into our work can positively impact us in ways we never imagined. All of us can use a little more grit in our lives. You may surprise yourself with how much you can achieve when you do!