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On Grit and Commitment
There’s an adage, “Talent will out.” It suggests that achievement follows naturally from ability. And while it’s clear that talent is a critical and major driver for employee recruitment at Percolate, there are two other must-have attributes that enable our people to succeed, both as individuals, and as part of our team.
Grit and commitment.
Grit: The Marathon Point of View
Grit is the tendency to pursue long-term goals with sustained zeal and hard work. Psychologists are beginning to believe that grit, or lack thereof, is a better predictor for success in academics, sports, and business than sheer talent or intelligence.
I agree with them wholeheartedly.
Here’s what Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, had to say about grit at a recent TED talk.
“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
A lot of the current thinking on grit comes by way of studies conducted by Duckworth and her colleagues on students in the Chicago public school system and cadets at West Point Military Academy. But even a cursory survey of the careers of great businesspeople reveals a track record of tremendous resilience, perseverance, and grit in the face of adversity and repeated setbacks.
In his youth, teachers told Thomas Edison he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no easier and Edison was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Some historians believe Edison may well have suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Even later, as an inventor, he struggled; Edison made over a thousand unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. One thousand unsuccessful attempts! Do you think, perhaps, he might have given up after Prototype Number 454? Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in the design that worked and lit up our homes, schools, factories, and cities.
“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed,” Edison said. “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”
Now that’s grit.
At the beginning of his professional career, Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor who claimed, “He lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
And while you may have never heard of Akio Morita, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the company he co-founded, the Sony Corporation. Sony’s first product launch was a rice cooker that didn’t cook rice so much as burn it, and it sold less than a hundred units. But this first setback didn’t stop Morita and his partners from pushing forward to create a multi-billion dollar company.
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,” Jordan has said. “On 26 occasions, I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Here again, I’ll let the scientists take over to explain this.
The Fixed versus Growth Mindset
Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research focuses on why people succeed and how to foster success. Dweck differentiates between two types of mindsets that are critical to achievement and productivity in business, sports, and academics.
“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success — without effort. They’re wrong. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”
Jacquelyn Nicholson, an enterprise account executive at Percolate with over twenty years experience including marketing to enterprises, is an exemplar of grit and the growth mindset. Here is what she recently had to say about customer relationship management.
“For me, it’s always about taking a step each day, each week, each quarter, and each year, forward. About building a relationship with that prospect or client based on a genuine and authentic desire to be of value to them and their business. About finding something to smile about and asking all the time, ‘Where do I need to be, whom do I need to talk to, and who needs me to help them?’”
According to Jacquelyn, who sees herself as “a student of awareness and observation”, it’s important to first understand rather than be understood. In the short term, this requires more effort and determination, but pays off in the end.
Which brings us to commitment.
Commitment: The Percolate Definition
Percolate’s success requires commitment, not only to one’s individual career and customers, but to the team as a whole — the organization. The mission: to become The System of Record for Marketing for global brands.
Percolate is somewhat unique in that our teams — including product and engineering, client solutions, sales, and creative content development and marketing — are wholly interdependent, and have to be wholly interdependent for us to succeed.
And this is a core component of what we look for in the individuals we recruit and onboard: a commitment to the company’s vision and mission, a willingness to take on whatever role is necessary to achieve goals together, including sometimes new, different, and additional responsibilities that may be initially outside of one’s comfort zone, or not in perfect harmony with where you originally envisioned you might be.
In short, we want to know that you’re a team player with grit and a right-sized ego who is willing to play, and when necessary, expand your role.
Moreover, as managers, what is our promise to the people that work for us?
That we’re in this together and building this together. That our people have our full support, thorough training and development, and state-of-the-art software and tools.
We’re making an investment in each other, from each of our interns up to the CEO. And Percolate team members know we’re working like hell, with each other, to see our investments and teamwork pay off.
And in the end, how do we know if we are building a great company? How do we know if our talent, grit, and commitment have us on the right track?
If the market and our staff tell us so.
Kiva Kolstein is Percolate’s Chief Growth Officer. If you think you have the grit and commitment we look for in our people, check out Percolate’s openings.