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Management Update: What is grit and do you have it?


Grit is not some disease you can get.  Nor is grit some type of cleaning product, however True Grit is. According to Angela Duckworth, who coined the phrase, grit is the passion and perseverance for achieving long-term meaningful goals. The rest of this blog will focus on what grit is and how we can develop grit in our employees who work for us to help make our dealerships better places to work.

Research indicates that the ability to be “gritty”—to stick with things that are important or that allow you to bounce back from failure, is an important component of success that is independent of talent and intelligence (Duckworth 2016).  What does this mean to us in dealerships today?  Having intelligence and talent do not guarantee success in life or business. Grit in business today moves away from IQ or social intelligence and moves towards personal drive and passion to get things done. Grit means that we need to focus on what really matters and understand that achieving long-term goals are not a sprint, but a marathon that can last a lifetime.  

Can we teach our employees to be more gritty? As employers, it is up to us to cultivate confidence and optimism that will allow employees to power through low moments in their careers as well as life in general. One of the key characteristics of gritty people is that they are highly motivated to seek out happiness in life through focused engagement and finding a sense of meaning or purpose (Duckworth Research Statement). So therefore it is important to help employees find his or her own passion. What this translates into is helping employees find what they love doing. It is impossible to be truly gritty if someone does not love what they are doing and the exercise becomes an uphill battle. If your employees do not love what they are doing they will never be truly successful or “gritty” at it. I have seen too many dealership employees who come to work every day and check their brains at the door because they are not passionate about their jobs. 

Grit demands taking risks either in life or work. Successful people, including managers, are willing to step out of their comfort zones and risk failure in order to learn something new or pursue a long-term goal. Risk often ends in failure and as adults we must accept this. Remember successful people and organizations often fail but truly successful people or organizations never give up. Encourage your employees and managers to take risks and be there for them when they are successful, as well as when they fail. Too many owners and managers label their employees as failures when something doesn’t work out as planned. This type of management does not instill grittiness in their employees but motivates employees not to reach for the challenging or the impossible. You have to instill in your employees that failure is not the end. Grit means that one needs to maintain hope and vision to change even under the most challenging circumstances.  

According to Forbes Magazine, there are five characteristics of gritty people:

  1. Courage to achieve the impossible.
  2. Conscientious: Dependability versus achievement orientation.
  3. Long-term goals, endurance, and follow through.
  4. Resilience: Optimism, confidence, and creativity.
  5. Excellence versus perfection.

If you truly want to be an employer that people enjoy working for, take the above five characteristics into consideration when you are mentoring your current employees as well as when you are actively recruiting for new dealership talent. If you truly want to help your dealership achieve great things that are considered impossible, mentor and encourage gritty behaviors, and/or hire gritty people!

I am an example of a gritty person. I have always said that I was not the most intelligent person but I am the most determined. I did not know this was considered grit but I learn new things all the time. I do not have the highest IQ in the world but I did persevere through a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and now I am slowly working my way through a doctorate program.  I was 25 when I received my bachelors, 44 when I received my MBA, and I will be 54 when I finish my dissertation. I am certainly not the smartest person in my program, but I will tell you this: I am the most driven and therefore gritty.

Remember that grit is not a dirty word but a new philosophy that we all should be learning about in management.

After all, it is just good business.

Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for more than 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.



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