Following all the travel guidelines, I arrived in Dubai in mid-December to spend time with my grandchildren. I know that every day is a school day for us adults, but I did not expect to receive my best learning from my own kids and I’d like to share it with you too.
Freddie is not yet four and he learned to ride his bike without stabilisers in December. As you can imagine, he fell several times and did hurt himself. His eight-year old brother Ben helped him each time, but not just by picking him up. With lots of words of reassurance, Ben encouraged him and continuously perked him up. Through some tears and with lots of perseverance, Freddie nailed it. So did Ben, for a different reason.
Then after Christmas, home-schooling was announced. Just this morning I overheard Freddie’s Zoom class and listened to his teacher talking about ‘grit’. She was prompting the class to keep trying and to never give up. Remember, this is to a class of toddlers. Ben is in the same school and later in the day he told me all about the school ethos. For example, he and his classmates are challenged to support each other, to be kind and also to achieve one new task each week. Well done to Safa Community School!
Every single day, the teachers talk about grit in class. For example, Ben told me about a time they broke into teams of four to write a poem. Each team appointed a recorder (scribe), a reporter (to read it out afterwards), a time-keeper and an encourager. Yes, an encourager. The encourager’s job is to keep the team upbeat and tenacious when they are struggling. (Fans of deBono’s six-hats will recognise this).
It doesn’t stop there. Throughout the whole curriculum, grit is this school’s mantra. Whether it’s in sports, academics or social interactions, tenacity is encouraged, even through adversity. Now I’m sure there are many schools in Ireland that also have a defined ethos, but this one really impressed me.
Nobody can quantify or articulate how much our world has changed in the past year. And who knows what the new world will be like. We can deduce, guess, assume or even look in a crystal ball. But the one thing we can be sure of is that there is more adversity to come. We’re not through this yet and we will be tried and tested some more.
Many have us have already shown great resilience. I’ve been working with many organisations throughout the year and I’m also giving lots of webinars and speaking at virtual conferences. I’m really impressed with the positive attitude of many that I meet.
I also reall feel for those that through no fault of their own, have had their lives upended. I’m thinking particularly about my friends in the hospitality, travel and retail sectors. So I’m sensitive to their feelings as I write these words today. But I have to say it, we have to dig deep and find our grit. “Now is not a time to rant and rave” said Wayne Neilon, the Group General Manager of Connacht Hospitality recently.
Another word for the ethos in this school, is culture. Every single organisation in the world has a unique culture, like a fingerprint. For some, it has been proactively designed, defined and embedded. For many others, it’s more of an abstract way of working that while everybody in the team knows about it, few can describe it succinctly. I believe that latter group are missing a trick. Notwithstanding the financial challenges, I’m strongly of the view that your culture will carry you through this phase of your organisation’s life.
Your culture needs to be relevant to you, but you would do well to consider grit as a key element of it.
Tips for introducing GRIT to your business
- Research the great achievers from across the spectrum that adapted and coped against extreme adversity. It doesn’t have to be just the solo-rowers that crossed the Atlantic and survived shark attacks and perfect storms. There are others that our teams can relate more to. In Ben and Freddie’s school, a refugee family arrived with no English at all. They got extra tuition at weekends and with support from the kids, they were playing and speaking English within a few weeks. They were also taught to show grit from day one.
- Take time to talk about ‘grit’. In daily huddles and team meetings, acknowledge how everyone is feeling and show lots of empathy. Then try to lift yourselves by refocusing on the big picture and building hope. ‘This too shall pass’ is an old Persian adage that is worth keeping in mind.
- Set SMART goals, with extra emphasis on the ‘R’, ie realistic and relevant. Whether they be team goals or individual goals, make sure you don’t overestimate what you can do in these strange times. Make your goals ‘S’ specific (rather than mere wishes). They should be ‘M’ measurable, otherwise how will you know for sure if they have been achieved or not? The ‘A’ is for achievable and ‘T’ is for timescale.
- Surround yourself with as much positivity as is possible. Now I know that’s probably ridiculous for some right now where medical or financial stress is all consuming. But you know what I mean.
The start of a new year is a time when we reflect and consider the future. The global uncertainty makes this year very different indeed. But while your strategy and your tactics may be in constant flux, your culture needs to be consistent.
I think we should all give some thinking time to our respective organisation’s culture. And if you can consider how to introduce some grit into that, it’ll serve you well I’m sure.