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GRIT… the new KPI on the scorecard?

At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, one of the favourites to win the 400m sprint was an athlete by the name of Derek Redmond from Great Britain. In the semi-final, at the 150m mark, he tore his hamstring in front of the whole stadium and the world. What was about to happen next, touched the hearts of everyone - Derek got up and slowly but surely attempted to keep going and reach the finish line, completing another 250 metres.

A few moments later someone broke through security, put his arm around Derek and helped him to the finish line. Both men started crying, but they kept going. The man was Derek’s biggest fan, his biggest supporter, his confidant, he was Derek’s father. Derek finished the race. He did not succeed in winning the 400m, didn’t break any records, win a medal or reach the final. Derek, however, never gave up and never allowed the injury and forces around him to beat him. He might have failed in the eyes of the scoreboard, but he was winning the ultimate prize in sport, namely resilience, dignity and pride, measured by something called GRIT. He realised that if you don’t give up, you cannot fail.

This touching story is just one of many in sport which emphasise passion, perseverance and persistence. Interestingly enough, these characteristics are the same that are used to define the term GRIT. “Grit” is often used as a sports term where it refers to resilience after setbacks or having to get up after losing a game or a match. Sporting heroes are often mentioned in the media for their “grittiness” or being “gritty”.

But what is GRIT? It is all about having an edge.

In sport, GRIT is getting up, after you fall. GRIT is persevering even if all the odds are against you. GRIT is those extra few yards when your body tells you it is impossible. GRIT is one more tackle, even with a broken rib. GRIT is to swim another stroke, even if your whole body is cramping up. GRIT is to practice one more round, even if the rain is pouring down and others have gone home. GRIT is to serve one more basket of balls, even if your coach has given up on you. GRIT is to do another bleep test when no one is watching. GRIT is to never give up. In sport GRIT is obvious, it is courage, it's resolve, it's strength of character, it's guts and glory, it is blood, sweat and tears.

So, what then does GRIT look like in the boardroom, the office, the operating team, the factory, or on the shopfloor? Is it real? Indeed, it is. GRIT is to show resilience when all environmental factors are against you. GRIT is to innovate and redesign, even if your ten previous attempts failed. GRIT is to go the extra mile, even for a disgruntled customer. GRIT is to be more productive, even if you missed out on a promotion. GRIT is to put in the extra hours, even if everyone has gone home or to the gym. GRIT is to help a team member without getting any recognition. GRIT is to take on the risks that others try to avoid. GRIT is to seek for new opportunities in business, while others remain with the status quo. GRIT is to leapfrog your competition, to be a revolutionist in innovation. GRIT is to stand up and go to work, even if you might not get paid. GRIT is to rise in the face of adversity, to shine when darkness has fallen, to not just survive but to take on and beat any pandemic, tsunami or recession and thrive. GRIT is to keep following your true north and to throw away the roadmap of the ordinary. Grit is to do all this again and again.

In further exploring the concept of GRIT, the question arises whether it has anything to do with talent? In both sport and business, how much talent is involved in being GRITty?

Angela Duckworth, the leading researcher in the field of GRIT concluded the following:




If talent was all we needed to succeed, life and sport would be simple. You either have it or you don’t. But effort combined with talent results in skill. This skill, coupled with more effort, gives real achievement which determines our success – this is GRIT.

As we know from GameChangers, sport’s lessons can be applied to the workplace. So, what can we learn from GRIT in the locker room? In business, our employees' performance is measured on various Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and deliverables. Employees need to have the necessary talent coupled with the effort of doing their job to be skillful. We measure their performance on the KPI scorecard like we measure sportsmen and women on the scoreboard.

But what makes organisations and employees outperform others? As in sport, many challenges and environmental factors derail us from delivering our best performance at work. A pandemic like COVID-19 is just one example. In the face of adversity, real resilience is needed. Just like you need resilience to stand up after you have torn your hamstring, and let’s face it, many hamstrings (and worse) have been torn over the last year. No KPI, performance scorecard or any other measurement system can be used to capture that resilience. To outperform others, organisations and employees need courage, perseverance, passion and persistence. What they need, is GRIT.

Organisations don’t need more skills development, technical capabilities or practical applications. In these times we look for a golden wand, a baton to take us through this battle. This baton is GRIT. The companies who understand GRIT, who develop GRIT, and who start measuring GRIT, will not just survive but thrive in these times.

Join us on 14 April when we speak to sports legend and ex-Springbok Rugby captain, Jean de Villiers, about his story of GRIT. Through powerful sports analogies - grounded in his story of adversity, disappointment, perseverance and finally success - we will provide you with practical tools and lessons from the locker room to take into your boardroom.

Let GameChangers be your GRIT coach and teach you how to show up, stand up, speak up and run onto the field of uncertainty with a positive growth mindset, attitude and commitment. Let us teach you how to have GRIT so you can relentlessly follow your long-term goal, regardless of the setbacks and failures that are brought upon you.

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