I recently attended an excellent presentation by Professor Angela Duckworth at the London School of Economics. Duckworth told us about her life’s work and the subject of her latest book – the study of “Grit”.
Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Grit, says Duckworth, is about an ”ultimate concern – a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal.”
It’s the “holding steadfast” part that fascinates me, because it’s the part where most of us fall down. Frenetic, passionate activity every so often is no substitute for genuine long term achievement. It’s easy to become frustrated sometimes when passion is not backed by perseverance. And ultimately, this frustration will be the acid dissolving your remaining resolve – the grit that currently lurks within you.
Duckworth’s book is an excellent read – you will get a lot from it – and in the process I’ve attempted to develop three mental skills to keep up my personal “Grit” quotient.
- Outcome. When frustrated, try to develop new skill No.1 – the skill of stepping back. Take a big step back and ask yourself a simple, forward-looking question: “What are we are trying to achieve?” You’re probably further down the road than you realise. It is easy to get wrapped up in a particular challenge without thinking of the progress already made. Avoid questions that keep you in the past, such as “Who is to blame?” or “How did we get into this mess?” Instead, ask yourself “What is working?”, “What needs to change?” and “How do we get there?”
- Attitude. I know it’s difficult, but new skill No.2 is to attempt to strip the emotion out of the situation and just accept that yes, you’re going to feel frustrated from time to time. Criticism from others, for example, is felt far more personally than intended by others. Instead, think about the positives in feeling frustration – we have all experienced “light bulb” moments through brainstorming challenges, shortly after experiencing the biggest doubts. You need to accept frustration in order to appreciate progress.
- 3.Simplify. It’s tempting sometimes to look beyond the obvious to an attractive but complicated solution or get bombarded by (or even seduced by the comfort of) clutter, noise and distractions. Remember that intense but unfocused activity is an inadequate short-term substitute for achievement. Skill No.3 is to remove all the clutter and strip a problem down to its essentials before moving forward again.
That’s my route to a “Grittier” way forward – focus on the outcome, adopt the positive attitude and simplify the challenge. You will doubtless have your own take on this – let me know! Do whatever works for you and you are already well on the way to moving beyond frustration and on to something much, much better.
High-quality, thought-through content has never been as important as it is now, yet it’s never been harder to find. The evidence is all around – we’re being bombarded from all angles by a host of different channels polluted with self-serving baloney. And “baloney” is putting it kindly.
Please, let us focus today on the need for high quality content in marketing efforts, the content that addresses the issues the buyer faces, rather than the desperation that the seller feels to get his or her point across. Because let’s face it, there is no shortage of content in the world, but there is still a short of incisive high-quality content to raise a reputation above the crowd.
It’s no coincidence that many of articles in the latest Clever Content Weekly focus on this issue. I have been, am and will always be unashamedly passionate about the value of great content for your business. But you can – and must – pay lots of time and attention to it. Why? It’s important because it sets the tone for everything that happens afterwards. The services that you sell are central to any successful business and the simple, clear and direct messages you send out about them is the way in which you let the world know.
Notice I wrote “messages” in that last sentence – not the “media” you use. The media we use to convey messages have changed greatly in recent years. They will change some more – media will come and media will go – but clear messages and great stories will outlast them all.
Content is also important because an elevator pitch today feels like a luxury of time. Instead, your time to make a pitch is now the few seconds it takes the buyer inside the lift to push the button to slide the doors shut – with you potentially left on the outside. Under this kind of pressure, you don’t need to talk quickly about yourself. But you do need to talk clearly and simply about the difference you could make.
Do you collaborate as much as you should with colleagues at work? You may well think of yourself as a good, sharing type. Stop, though, and have a good think about it. Are you, really? This is far more important than perhaps you first realise. The truth is that we miss many opportunities to improve the way that we work and learn from one another every single day. Take these examples:-
- If we work on a project we learn from it, but do we instinctively share the knowledge we have with others?
- We talk to another person who has knowledge we could benefit from, but do we think about whether another colleague be gaining from it at the same time?
- We go to conferences and hear great speakers, but how good are we at passing on their knowledge beyond those already in the room?
- And even if we are fortunate to work and learn in highly collaborative teams, do our sharing instincts extend to those outside our own organisational tribe?
The truth is that we all “do” collaboration to a point, but we could all do it a lot better. In organisations, we work and learn in restrictive bubbles around ourselves or our immediate teams. Knowledge is clearly valuable for those inside the bubble – and it could be invaluable for others in the organisation. The alternative is something we all see every day – a wasteful duplication of effort in the course of building knowledge.
It doesn’t take much time at all to share knowledge yet many advocates of a more wholehearted approach to collaboration struggle to show its business value. Our comprehensive research with 10Eighty clearly shows the prize of a well thought-through approach in any business. Those who do this register significantly higher returns from their spend on training employees; an average 10% higher engagement scores; and at least 5% higher productivity gains in their organisation.
The way in which knowledge is shared is of vital competitive importance in today’s business environment. In future, it will define the successful from the also-rans.