Building Your Company’s GRIT Muscle

In many companies, it is challenging to develop a community full of people who are in rhythm. In the hiring process, it is sometimes difficult to see whether or not a potential team member adds to the GRIT IQ or not. In order to be a company that is both progressively more competitive, and practices a “fail-fast” growth-mindset in every aspect of work, the whole company need to be on board. Having others support the company’s vision and who are also passionate about the business is a recipe for extreme focus and alignment.

If this seems daunting to you, it should. For one, it is herculean to achieve if you are starting from a company with over a few hundred employees.   It is the essence of why startups of all stripes (not only those disrupting entire industries) can build market share, and many times market leadership.  Focusing on developing the GRIT muscle, and maximizing the GRIT IQ of your business or team is a proven strategic choice for early investment.

There are ways to assess and measure team GRIT IQ (to be discussed in a later post). With a small team, the leaders carry a lot of the weight in team GRIT IQ.  But as the company grows, even modestly, it becomes clear that general team members, and especially culture leaders (of all levels) are key drivers of this metric.

Building Muscle:

Set a goal to try to get things done efficiently with as little miscommunications as possible as opposed to as few bumps as possible. When team members are able to learn from each other and learn from group speed bumps, the company as a whole will be better off. Encourage team members to ask for help and empower them to be confident in their roles, and comfortable making decisions.

As a business, make sure that your team is part of the solution in your market space (and not the problem). Through research, trial, error, and failure, a company can become more successful and gritty because they will be able to be closer to identifying the solutions that move the needle. I have seen large companies time and time again “disbelieve” a new entrant’s traction.  In a company with a high GRIT IQ, all competitors are noticed, and noted. It reminds us all to push the envelope and be innovative.

If you want a passionate and persevering team, make sure that there is an emphasis on learning. The key to GRIT in the workplace is teaching the team key skills (that they will be able to use to compete).  Be able to identify team members who will help lead others in the office and teach them how to cultivate more involvement and participation.  Identifying these “cultural leaders” within a company is critical, and getting them involved in informal activities can help spread their zeal and enthusiasm. These include social events, and community service projects, which are a great way to get teams out into the community, share the feeling of giving back, and at the same time experience the leadership of the cultural force team members.

Understand the impact that the office environment has on the company and the team. Make sure the workspace is safe and promotes growth and challenges so that the team will be magnetized towards success. For a company to have GRIT muscles, every team member has to be in sync.  A physical environment, versus a virtual one, allows this synchrony to happen much more naturally.

Look into the future and identify the direction of the company. Be able to prepare for what is ahead –  and if the company isn’t ready, identify HOW it can get ready. If a company doesn’t know how to do something well, keep varying the approach. If the company for example has too little focus on user interface, over-index on that next tranche of resources.

Becoming a company that pushes the envelope in order to bring the best product or service to its customers, takes strong customer relationships. Always, always, and always ask the customer, and measure the market.  Often times, customers will want more than is worth building in this phase of the market, or the market wants more than you can provide in a time frame that is useful.  This may be the best reason for flexing the GRIT muscle, and just getting what you can build– out the door.

One such company that flexes their GRIT muscle in order to be successful is LinkedIn. Since their inception, they have kept building toward providing millions of customers with easy and effective technology to help them promote themselves, as a feeder to its network access and advertising businesses. Whether it is a recent college graduate or a CEO, LinkedIn has been the most effective tool in its industry to connect employers, colleagues, and potential employees.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of getting to know Jeff Weiner as LinkedIn, and our company went public.  Jeff was incredibly helpful to me in thinking about the process, and shared his application of Mike Krzyzewski’s, “next play” strategy.  Jeff uses this device to foster the growth mindset and not have any team member dwell on either success or failure too long before getting on to the next task at hand, which is to learn and then grow.

In addition, LinkedIn fosters the growth of their employees and through its platform has influenced many other companies to create interactive and engaging experiences like they have. Team members are given opportunities to pitch their own ideas, collaborate on projects with different teams, and move around in the company itself. LinkedIn helps everyone find their niche and their passions through developing their skill sets and exposing them to speakers who can offer them new perspectives.

If you are a startup company, you should pay serious attention to the task of optimizing your company’s GRIT IQ, by an intense focus on hiring smart.  If this is done from an early stage, like LinkedIn has done, it is possible in an even larger organization.  As the company grows, maximize the opportunities to condition and flex the company’s GRIT muscle – with communication and a growth mindset.


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