If you’re a proud, card-carrying member of Gen X, you grew up around IQ tests being a big thing. Now that there’s a lot more research out there about what intelligence really means, we know that IQ doesn’t have much to do with success in many fields, including HR. Which begs the question–if IQ doesn’t really matter, what does?
Personally, I think I’s grit.
What is grit, exactly? Well, according to psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, who wrote Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (and who gave a great TED talk on the subject), grit is ‘not just resilience in the face of failure, but also having deep commitments that you remain loyal to over many years.’
In other words, grit isn’t simply about the willingness to work hard. Instead, it’s about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going.
If you like that definition, take note. This means you have to set long-term goals as an HR pro and have a plan, seeking to add value and get to big wins over time. Simply being determined to make the machine hum efficiently over time isn’t enough.
Do you have a demonstrated history of setting big goals and not stopping when barriers appear? Do you work through the challenges and keep going, or do you get easily sidetracked and give up?
If you work though all issues (big and small) and end up with big wins, chances are you have grit.
Let me give you a couple of real-life examples where I think grit is required in the world of HR, and some behavioral characteristics that are good indicators that a person has grit.
(P.S. If your team is thinking about hiring on a new colleague, you might add this list of characteristics to your wish list, and ask questions during the interview that help you figure out how ‘gritty’ he or she is, or isn’t.)
#1. You’ve put your big goals out there as an HR pro, and haters inside your organization are vocal that they don’t like your plan and/or actively are working against you.
You’ve seen this movie before, right? HR pros without grit tend to fall to the background when haters emerge. HR pros with grit listen, understand the objections and then unashamedly move to improve their plan, politically deal with the haters and keep driving their plan.
Behavior that indicates grit: Staying determined in the face of opposition
#2. You know what your big wins are as an HR pro, but your company is an absolute freak show of instability and chaos.
Most companies are under-resourced and nothing even close to the image they project on their website. HR pros without grit point to this chaos as a reason they didn’t achieve their goals. HR pros with grit embrace the chaos and find a path to use the instability to their advantage, by single-mindedly sticking to their goals, no matter what’s going on around them.
Behavior that indicates grit: Staying focused in the face of chaos and instability
#3. You had a good plan, but tried to implement it and failed spectacularly.
Stuff happens, and sometimes you suck. HR pros without grit feel the white-hot burn of failure in front of their peers and subconsciously promise never to fail again. HR pros with grit understand they won simply by getting started, and make a promise to themselves to bounce back like the members of Aerosmith after their fourth stint at rehab.
Behavior that indicates grit: Rebounding quickly after failure.
#4. Your long-term HR goals are strong, but you want it to be win/win for everyone.
HR pros without grit have a hard time deploying plans that impact some people in a negative way. HR pros with grit understand that sometimes someone has to lose in order for the vast majority to win. High-grit HR pros refuse to let their plans be derailed because a few people are negatively impacted.
Behavior that indicates grit: The ability to handle sometimes being ‘the bad guy’ to some people.
So. In short, grit is good. Grit works.
And while it’s true a lot of what constitutes grit is related to the way you’re wired, I do think that, if being assertive, questioning the rules, bouncing back after failure, and being okay with disappointing a few people doesn’t come easy to you, you can still push yourself to lean more in that direction in the everyday challenges that come your way.
The more you do that, the better HR pro you’ll be.
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