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Building Future Fit Teams: “Getting Gritty with it”

As I write this I have the “infamously awful” Will Smith song in my head – “Getting Jiggy with it.” All at once I am revealing both my age and obviously questionable taste in music. However, if we want to build teams that will be fit for the future we are going to have to help them get “Gritty” with it.

So, what does it mean to build a “Gritty” team and what exactly is “Grit?”

According to Angela Duckworth Grit can be defined as passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Duckworth and her fellow researchers Christopher Peterson; Michael D. Matthews and Dennis R. Kelly have spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand why some individuals achieve more than others even though they may be of equal or even greater intelligence. Their findings so far indicate that although intellect in combination with specific attributes are important, there is one defining personality characteristic across domains that leads to success and that is Grit.

“Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.” Duckworth (

The Gritty individual for me is that person with the perfect combination of Brains, Brawn and a vital third component…the Beauty of effort. Bloom, in her research conducted as far back as 1985, confirmed talent alone is not going to distinguish you or help you to succeed. Out of her study of 120 talented pianists, neurologists, swimmers, chess players, mathematicians, and sculptors, she found that only a small number of these individuals were previously identified as prodigies, the majority had relied on hard work and perseverance over a time period of 10 – 15 years to reach the top spot in their respective fields. This requirement for hard work and perseverance in attaining success is not only highlighted in Bloom’s research, but also, Terman’s longitudinal study of mentally gifted children conducted in 1947. What Terman and Oden found was that there was only a 5 point difference in IQ between the most and least accomplished men in the study. Only 5 points…just let that sink in. (

Talent is not the indicator of success, the effort level of the striving individual is true indicator. Effort is therefore the “grittiness” factor. This rings a few alarm bells for me because our current Talent Management practices focus on trying to identify our prodigies. This sounds logical, but I have some concerns. Firstly in focusing on the “gifted few” we shrink our talent pool. Secondly, as we’ve seen from the research there is no basis for only selecting from this pool. With only a 5 point variance between best and worst performers wouldn’t our time and effort be better spent on developing Grittiness to close this gap?

We can best develop Grittiness by focusing our efforts on the following 6 Aspects. In other words “get G.R.I.T.T.Y. with it.”

G – Growth Mind set: To put in high effort over an extended time period requires what Dweck refers to as the power of “Not Yet,” essentially the development of a Growth Mindset.  This mindset equips people to enjoy the journey to success and allows for a level of endurance that most of us can only stand back to admire!  For more on Growth Mindset watch: Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck

R – Resilience: With where we are headed this is a big one for all of us! We are all going to have to learn how to roll with the punches disruption is throwing our way. Our survival is dependent on how quickly we will be able to get up again and adjust our game. Watch, The Power of Resilience: Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. at TEDxRockCreekPark:

I – Intelligence: Yes, this remains important and yes it can be developed. Spend time looking at how you can improve your teams verbal and numerical skills, along with their technical and soft skills. Understand more about how to improve the different types of intelligences by watching this quick clip: How To Gain Intelligence – 8 Intelligences Theory – Get Smarter Everyday

T – Time: To develop successfully in any area you need time to learn, time to reflect and time for purposeful practice.  How much of your team’s time is dedicated to learning and purposeful practice? To get you thinking, and before you answer that the time you provide is sufficient please watch:  10,000 hours — sitting with failure: Laura Isaac at TEDxWyandotte:

T – Tenacity: Refers to the “guts” to persevere with passion in the relentless pursuit of your goals.  Relentless pursuit requires mental toughness. How mentally Tough is your team? A great talk to watch on mental toughness is Dr. Sean Richardson’s in which he looks at lessons learned by professional athletes on how to overcome barriers to success. Mental Toughness: Think differently about your World:

Y – Yearning: What is your teams purpose, is it something they can commit to over a long period of time? Are they motivated enough to achieve their goals? Motivation is a really funny thing and it’s not just about the money. Please take a moment to watch Daniel Pink: What Really Motivates Workers:

I hope that you find this helpful in helping your team to “Get G.R.I.T.T.Y with it” and if you need a backing track click below.

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  1. Syd Boston Syd Boston

    Hi Kerryn
    I really enjoyed this “gritty” article – particularly the practical DIY guide that provides specific actions to take to build teams fit for the future! SHOT!

  2. Great article and resource links. btw. I think I might be liking your taste in music after all!!

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