What is the truest predictor of success in life and business?
No one quite knows.
We all can relate stories of the brilliant man who amounted to nothing, or to the determined woman who rose to the top.
We’ve all heard of the person with every advantage who was also a failure, or the one who achieved great things even though the “odds were against them.” The fact is there are many causes that people consider relevant to success, including intelligence, schooling, work ethic, and others.
There is one trait that’s rarely mentioned but that may be the greatest predictor of all.
We’ll call that trait, grit.
Grit is often thought of as a kind of indefinable toughness, an ability to carry on when others wouldn’t. But in a more concrete sense, grit can be more precisely defined as perseverance plus game plan.
It’s not enough to be tough, the individual must wed their resiliency to a roadmap. In other words, grit is knowing where you want to go and then getting there at all costs.
I recently read an article about the great golfer, Bill Keane. He started out as a college phenom who started as a walk-on to the University of Michigan team where he established himself as an unlikely star. But in the professional ranks, he quickly gained a reputation as a “choker.”
Eventually, his lack of success caused him to drop out of the professional game altogether. From time to time he was still capable of qualifying for prestigious tournaments such as the national amateur or mid-amateur, but he never excelled on those stages.
But even years after his departure from the pro game he hadn’t lost his longing to compete at the highest level. At age 51, when many excellent professional players are in decline, he charted a comeback. Instead of enjoying his dotage and wistfully remembering his past glories or abandoning his dreams and giving up on the idea of competing again, Bill set a goal for himself: He would return to top competition.
But what distinguished him from others in his situation was he also planned for how he would get there.
He gave up alcohol and caffeine. He started running. And he returned to rigorous practice and fitness activities. Despite the highs and lows of the monumental task, he put in front of himself, he never quit and never wavered from these strident lifestyle restrictions.
Eventually, this new plan paid off and in his early 50s, he started playing better than he ever had before. Only three years after returning to top-level play Bill won three major tournaments: the U.S. Senior Amateur in 1998 and 2000 and, in 1999, the British Senior Amateur.
At age 66 he was still at it. He won the overall championship at the Chicago golf club even though he was already more than a decade older than that year’s Senior Champion.
There is a lesson in all of this for business executives. When looking for the qualities of a top-notch addition to the team, look for the individual with grit, the one who can demonstrate a dedication to a task, and marry it with strategic focus to achieve goals.
As author Angela Duckworth propounds in her book on the subject (not surprisingly titled “Grit”), talent alone is not enough to predict success. Duckworth manages to both quantify and predict ‘grit’ with a great deal of success. (Let me know if you would like a complimentary copy of her book.)
So, when you’re considering your next executive candidate, look beyond background, experience, and skillsets. They’re important but the intangibles may be just as important or even more so.
Look for the quality of grit. It’s something we include in every search we do.
If you’d like to know a little more about it, give us a call.