Alan's corner: Steps to infuse true grit into your team
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Alan’s corner: Steps to infuse true grit into your team

Alan’s corner: Steps to infuse true grit into your team

Grit sets winners apart, giving you the courage to go over, around or right through challenges

I know that every day is a school day for us adults, but I did not expect to receive my best learning from my grandchildren and I’d like to share it with you too. Freddie was not yet four when he learned to ride his bike without stabilisers.

As you can imagine, he fell several times and did hurt himself. His then eight-year old brother Ben helped him each time, but not just by picking him up. With lots of words of reassurance, Ben encouraged him and continuously perked him up. Through some tears and perseverance, Freddie nailed it.

So did Ben, for a different reason. In homeschooling recently, I overheard Freddie’s Zoom class and listened to his teacher talking about ‘grit’. She was prompting the class to keep trying and to never give up. Remember, this is to a class of toddlers. Ben is in the same school and later in the day he told me all about the school ethos. He and his classmates are challenged to support each other, to be kind and also to achieve one new task each week. Every single day, the teachers talk about grit in class. Ben told me about a time they broke into teams of four to write a poem. Each team appointed a recorder (scribe), a reporter (to read it out afterwards), a time-keeper and an encourager.

Yes, an encourager. The encourager’s job is to keep the team upbeat and tenacious when they are struggling. (Fans of deBono’s six-hats will recognise this mix).It doesn’t stop there. Throughout the whole curriculum, grit is this school’s mantra. Whether it’s in sports, academics or social interactions, tenacity is encouraged, even through adversity. Now I’m sure that most schools also have their defined ethos, but Safa Community School really impresses me.

Organisation culture 
Nobody can quantify or articulate how much our world is changing. We can deduce, guess, assume or even look in a crystal ball. But the one thing we can be sure of is that there will always be adversity. We’re not through this yet and we will be tried and tested some more. Another word for the ethos in the school, is culture. Every single organisation in the world has a unique culture, like a fingerprint. For some, it has been proactively designed, defined and embedded. For many others, it’s more of an abstract way of working that while everybody in the team knows about it, few can describe it succinctly. I believe that the latter group are missing a trick.

Introducing ‘grit’ to your business 
Your culture needs to be relevant to you, but you would do well to consider grit as a key element of it.

Here’s how you can do it 

Research the great achievers from across the spectrum that adapted and coped against extreme adversity. It doesn’t have to be just the solo-rowers that crossed the Atlantic and survived shark attacks and perfect storms. There are others that our teams can relate more to. In Ben and Freddie’s school, a refugee family arrived with no knowledge of English at all. They got extra tuition at weekends and with support from the kids, they were playing and speaking English within a few weeks. They were also taught to show grit from day one.

Take time to talk about ‘grit’. In daily huddles and team meetings, acknowledge how everyone is feeling and show lots of empathy. Then try to li­t yourselves by refocusing on the big picture and building hope. ‘This too shall pass’ is an old Persian  adage that is worth keeping in mind.

Set S.M.A.R.T goals, with extra emphasis on the ‘R’, ie realistic and relevant. Whether they be team goals or individual goals, make sure you don’t overestimate what you can do in these strange times. Make your goals ‘S’ specific (rather than mere wishes).
They should be ‘M’ measurable, otherwise how will you know for sure if they have been achieved or not? The ‘A’ is for achievable and ‘T’ is for timescale.

Surround yourself with as much positivity as is possible. Now I know that’s probably ridiculous for some right now where medical or financial stress is all consuming. But you know what I mean.

The last word 
The start of a new year is a time when we reflect and consider the future. The global uncertainty makes this year very different indeed. But while your strategy and your tactics may be in constant flux, your culture needs to be consistent.

I think we should all give some thinking time to our respective organisation’s culture. And if you can consider how to introduce some grit into that, it’ll serve you well I’m sure.

Alan O’Neill is the managing director of Kara, a change consultant and speaker

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