Are you Gritty?

I recently saw Angela Duckworth speak at a conference and from that day forward, my outlook on assesssing talent has pivoted. I take it personally when I hire someone for an organization that was promising during the interview process and fizzles out over time. Not because they are falling behind, but because they didn’t try hard enough. Success is measured by effort. Relentless effort plus dedicated time equals achievement. Angela would call this Grit.

Memorize this formula


For example, I take an interest tennis. Interest is where it stops me. I play once every few months and far from good. I’d say “just ok”. Outside of anatomical advantages, a tennis player isn’t a legend without effort. With a little bit of raw talent, the tennis player practices diligently and over time, they will develop skill. The problem is most people stop there. Not Serena Williams. Her secret weapon to arguably being the best woman tennis player of all time is her serve. Was she born with a good serve? No. She took the talent put in the effort to yield skill. With the skill, she puts in countless hours of training, conditioning and deliberate practice to achieve. Angela says deliberate practice day in and day out is the key. Serena Williams defines Grit in the tennis world. Grit is also found in the workplace.

If you influence the hiring process, it’s essential to assess Grit and make it your number one priority. I couldn’t put Angela’s book down because with every page turned, my mind was blown. Here are a few takeaways.

Ways to identify Grit in the interview process.

  1. Identify passion. Before hammering on technical qualifications during the interview, ask this simple question. “Tell me something you are passionate about.” Actively listen to the response. Do they convey themselves as a natural? Do they emphasize the dedication, effort and loyalty put into their passion? Is their passion an exciting topic to discuss? It’s impossible to find the perfect technical fit for any position. You will fail if you try.  Grit turns passion into achievment.
  2. Have the candidate define effort. Effort counts twice in the Grit formula. Effort is the driving force to achievement and if someone is striving to achieve effort being deliberate is a must. Nothing in life comes easy. I would never tell Serena Williams she’s a world legend because she’s naturally talented. She would say it’s the long, grueling hours of deliberate practice that yields her results. World class olympic gymnasts don’t show up on the mat and stick it. If there are roughly 1460 days in a 4 year period, you can bet they are practicing at least 1350 of those days up to 12 hours a day. That’s 16,200 hours for the short performance on the world stage once every 4 years.
  3. Ask about failures. Do they take ownership for their set backs or do they point fingers? How do they react? A gritty person takes ownership and looks at set backs as a learning opportunity to try even harder.

Deliberate practice translates across an entire organization. Every position, big or small, requires grit. Gritty sales people never give up chasing the sales. Gritty designers go back to the drawing board over and over again until they produce great work. Gritty nurses go above and beyond to provide world class care. Never settle. Don’t let yourself be swooned by buzzwords and their ability to win you over in a short interview. Technical skills are convenient. Knowing how a candidate applies their technical skills is where the bets will be hedged. Hire for Grit.