By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community!

What exactly is “grit”? While most of us may think of it as a stubborn determination to get through anything life throws at us, is it so much more than that:

Angela Duckworth, a professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who has written a book on the subject, defines grit as “the tendency to sustain interest in and effort towards very long-term goals”.

She has even devised a test to determine where you place on the ‘Grit Scale’, and explains just how critical it is as a predictor of success. So how can we build grit in ourselves and others? How can you encourage grit in your teams and with your children? I have found that how we handle failure is an important part of building grit!

TIP #1: Push Yourself & Expect 20-30% Failure

 I found it interesting when I learned that employees at Google are encouraged to set goals, and yet expected to achieve only 70-80% of them. Why? Because their philosophy is that if employees are achieving 100%, their goals are too easy! They want to create a culture that is fast, progressive and risk-taking, in which employees are not afraid to try new things. To create that kind of culture they need to inspire employees to stretch, but also to manage expectations that not all their ambitious goals will be reached. Pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone, striving for excellence and expecting (some) goal-failure is all part of building grit. It’s changing our attitude about goal-setting and failure, to an approach which is more realistic and empowering. Personally, I have found this new mindset very helpful; at our office, we have several exciting large projects on the go, and things are moving quickly! Recently, when something has been missed or doesn’t work, we don’t agonize over it and over-analyze; we say “that’s part of the 20%” and we let it go and refocus on our energy on our priorities. It’s been liberating!

TIP #2: Stop & Take Some Time

When we encounter failure, or we don’t reach a goal that truly matters, that’s when our “grit-muscle” is needed. We are not robots – we are humans! As we set goals, and sometimes don’t achieve them, this failure will often bring out feelings of sadness, frustration, or disappointment – it’s a natural emotional response! So how should we cope? First, don’t ignore those emotions; give yourself some “recovery time” to process them. According to motivational speaker and former sports agent Molly Fletcher, recovering from adversity, both physically and mentally, is the only way to achieve success, and it’s something she strongly encouraged in her former clients, many of whom became the top athletes in their field. Once you have gained perspective on your failure, and learned what you need to from it, then give yourself permission to let it go, hit reset, and start going after the next goal.

TIP #3: Lean In & Have A Growth Mind-Set

So what should we do during the “recovery process? Lean in and have a Growth Mind-Set! Often, our first reaction to failure is to run and turn our back on it. However, moving towards it and asking for feedback is the only way to learn from it and not let it defeat you. Ask yourself – what worked? What did not work and why? Without understand why, “failure” is likely to happen again. Having a Growth Mind-Set is using data (from failure) and really studying it to help you grow! Data is powerful – without knowing why you failed, you’ll simply be guessing, which is not only a waste of time but will teach you nothing! So the next time you think you have failed (at work or home), have the courage to lean in adopt the Growth Mind-Set. Ask others for their feedback (terrifying: yes, powerfully helpful: YES!). If you ask, most people will tell you, and that powerful data will only strengthen your success muscle of grit.

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn

By Dr. Karyn

Unless you live in total isolation (which I hope describes none of you!), you are going to encounter what I like to call ‘tricky people’ at some point. Whether it’s a co-worker, a family member or someone in our social circles, there is simply no escaping those people that somehow just know how to push our buttons, intentionally or not.

According to conflict expert Jagoda Perich-Anderson, 67% of employees would prefer to avoid a difficult colleague to reduce bad feelings due to conflict, rather than deal with them head on.

And while avoidance may be a short-term solution, whether in the workplace or at a family gathering, it will not resolve the resulting feelings of unhappiness and disempowerment. So how can we best deal with these people that are part of our everyday lives? I encourage you to think of ‘tricky people’ as an opportunity! I tell my kids all the time, that the world is full of wonderful people and ‘tricky people’, both for young people and adults. The key is to learn how to recognize them, and to respond appropriately. I hope the 3 tips below will help you feel more empowered and optimistic in your professional and personal life! Enjoy!

TIP #1: Study The Pros

You know that colleague at work who seems to deal effortlessly with everyone? That person who never seems bothered or irritated by that ‘tricky person’ in the office? Study them! Exactly what is it that they do to calmly interact with those who manage to push other people’s buttons? Pay attention to their body language, the words they use, and how they respond, so you can learn how they cope with potentially stressful situations. If you are still not sure what they are doing different, just ask them. What’s their secret to not letting people get to them? Their answers may really surprise you!

TIP #2: Give Your Emotions A Workout

Just as important as learning from the pros, is to view your interactions with a difficult person as your ‘emotional trainer’. After all, the only way you can improve at something is by practice! When I was in my early twenties, I had a part-time job while I was putting myself through school and I learned the power of this concept. My manager was an extremely difficult person to deal with and I had to learn very quickly the best way to approach each interaction. I soon discovered that her criticism and constant negativity didn’t have to dictate the way I felt. In fact, by being intentionally positive towards her, not only did I avoid ‘mirroring’ her behavior, a trap we can all fall into in such situations, but I actually felt more assertive and empowered. It was a powerful learning opportunity that taught me no one else can make me feel anything. It is always my choice how I interpret and respond to others.

So, whether it’s your mother-in-law or a difficult boss, make it a personal challenge to interact with that person in a manner that is cool and calm, drawing on your Emotional Intelligence so you remain stress-free throughout the encounter. Just think to yourself – how would you recommend your child to respond in exactly the same situation? Then try to follow your own advice.

TIP #3: Be Prepared

Family get-togethers are times when we often encounter tricky people – those family members who we just know will end up “pushing our buttons”! The key step for being able to calmly navigate these types of situations is to be prepared! Think ahead of time, what do you think they will say or do that may irritate you? People are very habitual so you will likely be able to think of a few examples. Next, strategize what you would want to say and do when they say that comment. One hint I recommend in these situations is to acknowledge the other person’s opinion but do not engage. My favorite strategy is to have a quick 1-liner in your ‘back-pocket’ so you are 100% prepared, such as “that’s interesting” or “well, that’s one way of looking at it”, and then promptly change the subject. Knowing 1-2 quick, neutral yet respectful one-liners, will help you act rationally and calmly especially in emotionally-charged situations, so you can truly enjoy your family time!

Your Leadership Coach
Dr. Karyn