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Category: Grow Your Business

How to Encourage Grit in Your Organization

It doesn’t matter how exhausted or hurt you are, we never ring the bell.

One of the most well-known parts to BUDS initiation is the infamous Hell Week. It’s a five-day training period designed to push potential Navy SEAL candidates beyond the point of exhaustion. Candidates will sleep four hours or less over the five-day period as instructors push them past their perceived limits. The completion rate varies between 20-30% per graduating class.

Any aspiring SEAL can quit Hell Week at any moment. The only way out is to walk over and ring the bell three times, signaling you’ve given up. The bell is a sign of defeat – that you weren’t mentally strong enough to endure. The few newly graduated SEALS who survived Hell Week had to commit to themselves that they would never ring the bell. In other words, they would never give up and be gritty enough to endure anything their instructors sent at them.

Among other characteristics, the Navy SEALS demand grit from their members and the ability to persevere through expected (and unexpected) tribulations in the pursuit of a future goal. It’s no wonder they’re one of the most successful organizations in our country. SEALS are put into the most dangerous of situations and expected to perform flawlessly under pressure, remain optimistic about their success, and work together as one unit for a common goal.

How could your company benefit from that same level of team performance?

While they may not perform to the level of our US Navy Seals, they can begin to build the necessary grit & mentality that would elevate their performance in relation to your organizational goals. Here are four ways you can encourage grit within your organization.

1. Clearly Communicate Your Main Goals

Does everyone in the organization know your company’s main goal & their individual role’s goal? Knowing where you’re going, and in many cases, how long it will take you to get there helps someone maintain their grit to continue pursuing the goal. If your end goal is far off, how clearly are key checkpoints along the way communicated so team members know what they’re aiming for in the short term and will be able to realize it when they’ve arrived.

It’s nearly impossible to maintain your forward progress and positive attitude when you’re pursuing something that you have no idea how long it will take. Consider why marathons show mile markers throughout the race. Each point helps boost the confidence of runners while also keeping them focused on their pace/progress during the course. Establishing short-term checkpoints help reinforce motivation for the longer, big picture pursuits.

2. Use Language Optimistic About Future Growth

It’s imperative that we use language that is positive and encourages a growth mindset in order to build grit within our employees. According to Angela Duckworth, gritty people are hopeful and use matching language. They don’t just wait and wish for good things to happen to them, but instead are active in creating the results they want for their career/health/life.

Leaders within an organization can encourage grit within their team by using empowering language to support the development of future skills & goal achievement. Replace phrases “I can’t,” “I have to,” & “I don’t know” with positive phrases “I won’t,” “I’m going to,” and “I’ll discover how.” Reinforcing language that supports an employee’s effort, positive attitude, and ability to grow in their skillset and role gives them focal areas to develop, helping to reinforce their grit.

3. Identify Places Team Members Have Already Displayed Grit

One way to help your team identify grit as a skill they can continue to hone is to identify past examples where individually and collectively they’ve shown grit. For those who don’t believe themselves to be gritty, directly identifying how they positive responded to a challenge or difficulty can open their eyes to how they have some grit – and where they can develop more. Another idea would be to host an open discussion over lunch around a challenging situation your team worked through in order to show them collectively the grit of your organization to persevere through (and overcome) challenges

4. Ask Interviewees About Times They Struggled or Failed

It’s easy to look at our current team members and ask how to develop more grit, but one area often overlooked is during our recruiting and interview process of new employees. It’s important that you look for gritty traits as you add new team members to your culture so they help add to the overall atmosphere within your company’s walls.

Ask candidates about times were they struggled and how they overcame said struggles. Find out what passions they have outside of work and what they did to cultivate their skills in that area. Consider how an accomplished athlete or musician has invested countless into practicing their skills so they can perform on game day. That focus and long-term vision to practice relentlessly display the type of grit that leads to success for an employee in an organization

Grit doesn’t just happen. It’s intentionally built.

Gritty organizations don’t just happen. Cultures don’t just happen to persevere through challenging, stressful seasons. They intentionally survive them because of the work done prior to injecting grit into culture and employees. It’s not an instant change, but it can be done with an intentional focus on these four steps starting this week.

Why It’s Worth That Extra Hour Investment

I passed my neighbor and his son mowing their yard while walking my dogs this morning. I actually did a double take because the dad wasn’t mowing the yard in the most efficient manner. In fact, there was no doubt the way he was mowing would take at least an hour longer than it should have to mow his yard.

You see, he was guiding their push-mower while his young son (most likely 7 or 8 years old) pushed the machine. Slowly, the pair worked up and down that yard, careful to cut every blade of grass together. As someone who hates yard work, my first thought was that there are a million better activities to do for parent/child bonding. But as I watched, I realized he was probably thinking much more long-term than I was.

By investing the extra hour or two to make sure his son could mow the yard correctly, the father was freeing up his time in the future to work on other areas of the yard (or skip yard work altogether). He was training his son to do the job correctly so that he could take over the task going forward. An extra hour or two today would save him countless hours over the next few years.

It makes complete sense – so why do we forget so often in business?

Four Leadership Lessons from Ford v. Ferrari

This post is the first of many categorized as “Leadership and Popcorn Lessons” that I’ll share business and leadership takeaways from movies. I love going to movies and watching great stories unfold on the big screen, and felt it would help you, my readers, in your career & life if you had additional insights into the film and key lessons to look out for if you were to see the film.

I’ve been excited to see Ford v. Ferrari since I watched its trailer release on YouTube. I’m a fan of both Matt Damon & Christian Bale, and was excited to see how they would bring this story to life. The film highlights the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s “oldest, active sports car endurance race.”

Ford Motor Company’s sales were struggling during the 1960’s. Desperate for a change, Henry Ford II hired a team of engineers, led by automotive legend Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver (Bale) to design a Ford racing car capable of beating Ferrari in the world’ biggest race. It was a move the company was banking on changing their brand image from an “old man’s car” to a new generation’s fast, sexy car.

Ford v. Ferrari is a fast-paced racing movie, full of ego, arrogance, and the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s also filled with key lessons for succeeding in business and life.

1. What’s Worked In the Past Doesn’t Guarantee It Will in the Future

Ford had built a large company on the backs of their early models, but during the 1960s, saw their market share slip due to a younger generation aligning Ford with their parents – and like all teenagers & young adults, they wanted to distance themselves from anything that made them look like their parents. James Bond, the image of sexy & strong, drove an Ashton Martin. Other brands stepped ahead of Ford until they turned to Carroll Shelby and unveiled the Ford Mustang in 1964.

As detailed in the movie, Ford had to change their brand image & product line from what “was” in order to rise back ontop for what it “could be.”

It’s easy for us to rely on the way “things have always been” in business. We grow comfortable and complacent sticking with what’s always worked instead of continually evaluating our systems, products, and customer experience – until one day we look up and realize we’ve lost ground in the market. “What got you here won’t get you there” is a phrase I’ve kept in the forefront of my mind during my own entrepreneurial journey so that I was constantly focusing on how we can innovate and continue growing instead of being caught complacent.

2. Sometimes You Have to Look Outside of Your Industry for Game-Winning Ideas

Ford’s team looked beyond the American consumer market for ideas on how to rebrand themselves and create a new product (insert Ferrari & the 24 Hours of Le Mans). Most companies succeed with innovation with they look outside of their own industry and direct competitors for fresh ideas in other industries altogether.

We get stuck in a habit only reviewing our space when many great ideas can be found by looking at the processes & systems of other industries. Just look at how companies like Uber & AirBnB have changed the transportation & travel industries. If you’re ever feeling stuck, challenge yourself to look at how successful companies in entirely different spaces are working for a fresh perspective.

3. Be Willing to Experiment and Test with the Continuous Focus of “How Can We Get Better Today?”

Shelby’s team was relentless testing Miles’ race cars to create the most efficient & powerful machine so he had the best opportunity to win at Le Mans. Just the same, successful organizations encourage a culture of asking “how can we get better today?” It’s a simple question, that if integrated into all levels of a company, can create powerful results.

This simple question encourages every position within a company to evaluate their own workday, communication lines, customer-engagement, and more for opportunities to streamline and improve the workflow & experience. The tests to improve the workflow only benefit the company’s productivity and – just as important – the customer experience.

Be less concerned about something “not working” and more concerned with testing different ideas for improvement. You won’t bat 1.000% on new ideas – but you will bat 0% if you never attempt to test them.

4. Someone Will Always Criticize You – Even Try to Bring You Down – Ignore Them To Focus on What You Control.

Throughout the entire movie, Damon & Bale’s characters faced challenges – both from external teams & influences as well as internal at Ford. It reminded me of one key truth we forget when pursuing something great – not everyone is going to like it or you. It doesn’t matter if they do, it only matters what you continue to do.

You can’t control how someone else treats you (or tries to sabotage you) but you 100% control how you respond in your attitude, effort, & actions. You can waste precious time worrying about what someone else will say or do – or you can invest that time in getting better with your product and service. Even if you do a flawless job, someone will have something negative to say – so it’s a more effective use of your time to ignore outside critics and instead focus on what you control.

Ford v. Ferrari is a great film on the importance of thinking creatively outside of the box, believing in your ability to win, and hiring people you believe in — and then getting out of their way to let them do their job effectively.

5 Lessons for Sales Teams from Gridiron Genius

Football was always my first love and I’ll take the time to read any book that dives into the intricacies of the game. Former NFL general manager (and 3x Super Bowl champion) turned author Michael Lombardi takes us on a journey throughout his career to share what makes for a winning team at football highest levels.

Lombardi shares stories from Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers to Al Davis’ Oakland Raiders to today’s New England Patriots’ dynasty. Fans of football will love the behind-the-curtain look at how teams are assembled and what actually matters when building the next great team.

But more surprising than what it takes to build a winning football team is what stood out to me about what can be learned from this book to build a winning sales team for your organization. Not content to sit on this insight, I wanted to share with you the key lessons you can glean from Gridiron Genius to inject in your company’s culture and sales team.

1. You Need a Gameplan to Win

Future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belicheck is notorious for gameplanning everything – even off of the field. He has a schedule planned (down to the minute!) for each day throughout the football season and even its imminent off-season. Belicheck wants everyone on the team and in the organization to know where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be focused on every day of the year. This allows him the ability to know what the focus is, where anyone is off course (if at all), and what adjustments need to be made.

Similarly, it helps if a sales director has a strong gameplan for his/her team.

  • What does our year look like? When do we typically close most deals and when are we most slow?
  • What daily activities, if implemented consistently, will reap rewards?
  • What does each employee’s schedule look like – how are they prioritizing their activities and time throughout a day?

It’s not micromanaging – it’s having a solid gameplan, teaching that gameplan to each team member so they’re set up for success, and then simply executing on that plan. You can have a plan and prepare to succeed – you can lack a plan and prepare to fail.

2. Command Your Message

The better you communicate your message, the easier your team can buy into it. A team that understands the goal, the gameplan, and the culture is a team that can commit to it. Any confusion on what a player’s expectations or role is can lead to mismanaged plays or mistakes. If a coach fails to clearly and cleanly communicate to his/her team, then their overall chances of success dwindle.

Lombardi describes the differences between two legendary coaches in Bill Parcells and Bill Belicheck. Parcells used simple metaphors to drive home short, quick messages to his players. Belicheck, on the other hand, prefers to use video and bluntness to show his players what happens when they fail to follow the plan. Both coaches are Hall of Famers – but both use different communication styles to clearly articulate the message in a way their players can quickly absorb it.

If you can’t clearly communicate what you’re selling, why it matters, and what a customer’s world would like with/without it, then you’re losing out on key (if not all) sales opportunities.

Even more important is the fact that research continues to prove that stories – not facts – are remembered more often. It’s vital in sales to paint a story picture for customers instead of just vomiting statistics on them. A successful salesperson will command their message and clearly communicate their story in a way that the customer quickly understands it – just like a football coach teaching a gameplan to his team.

3. Simplify Your Execution

The less you think, the faster you play. In sports, the more a player is thinking about what they have to do, the slower that player can react and play their position. Once a player fully understands their role and action on each play, the faster they can play because their movements become second nature reaction – instead of something they have to think through before moving. Hesitation – even 1 second – in a game like football can be the difference between a tackle for a loss and a touchdown. When a player can play loose and simply react by memory, the better they can play.

We can easily overcomplicate our sales process. We can jam jargon and sales scripts down our employee’s throats instead of teaching them a simple process and playbook they can follow. Key examples of simplifying execution would be:

  • Focusing on the 3 most important activities to do each day instead of a long to-do list
  • Training sales conversations & scripts so sales team members are able to say in a casual conversation way instead of robotic or scripted
  • Teaching the key, revenue-driving activities so employees are able to focus on the few things that matter – instead of being distracted by the majority of things that don’t.

4. Work Ethic is Key

Quarterback evaluation is one of the most difficult scouting jobs in football. One trait that continues to stand out in determining a player’s long-term potential for success is that player’s work ethic. Lombardi highlights seven traits he looks for in every quarterback prospect to increase his chances of drafting a winning player, with work ethic being high on the list.

You can train a lot of skills in a new hire, but one that’s difficult (and for many hires, impossible) is ambition and work ethic. You can teach sales scripts, you can build confidence by repetition and training, but it’s hard to train work ethic. It should be one of the biggest keys when looking at new hires for your organization – because most everything else is trainable.

5. Your Best Sales Person Still Has to Be Accountable

The best person on your football team still has to be as accountable to the culture and team rules as the practice squad player in order to build a thriving culture and winning team. Your star can’t cut corners, quit on plays, or skip meetings.

The same applies to our corporate offices.

In many offices, it’s easy to escape a culture of accountability when you’re the best salesperson. You can play by a different set of rules on commitment and consequences because you bring in revenue – but in a winning organization, everyone (from top of the org chart on down) are held to the same standard. I shared earlier this year here what you need in order to create a culture of accountability in your organization but know that to elevate your game, everyone needs to be on the same page and committed to the same culture.

Even your best player.

I highly recommend Lombardi’s book if you’re a fan of football or active coaching a sport, as it lays out key insights into building a winning team, and more importantly, off-field lessons you can use in building your organization to excel.

Grab your copy of Gridiron Genius here.

Lessons a Kid Entrepreneur Taught Me

I was fortunate to have coffee recently with a fourth-grade entrepreneur who’s out to make a difference.

Ainsley started her bath soaps’ business to raise money for her pastor’s wife who was undergoing cancer treatments. I LOVED hearing her passion for creating different kinds of soap in order to sell and donate profits to help with the mounting medical bills.

Despite being the one sharing advice on starting a business, I was reminded of some powerful truths by this young lady – and what we can all learn from the conversation:

Six Years In

Six years ago this past Friday I sold my very first item online for Compete Every Day. What a ride.

I’d almost forgotten our anniversary until Friday night when a Facebook memory showed up in my feed, reminding me of the importance of May 26.

I gave pause and began to reflect on the last six years. The highs, painful lows, amazing people met, and everything in between. I smiled, thanking God for the trip, and started typing a note on my phone about the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the six years. And I think entrepreneurship – just like life – all comes down to this. It comes down to:

Just Start.

Don’t let where you have to start stop you from where you are called to go.

This was taken at the Big D Marathon during my very first year building Compete Every Day. I had a backdrop and shirts folded on a table. If I’m being honest, I was embarrassed at how bare my setup was. I WANTED to be “big-time” – do you know that feeling? You don’t have the resources to do everything you want so you have to make do with what you can.

Success In Life Mainly Comes Down to This

Every blog article & social media post you see in regards to success all claim to have the “one magic formula” to transform you from tired goal-setter to successful goal-crusher. Each one subscribes to a different methodology. It’s quite easy to read through article after article, and yet walk away still thoroughly confused on what will get you from point A (the “now”) to point B (“victory).

We each come from a different background and set of circumstances, and almost all of us have a different goal. Many of you are focused on your sports’ goals. You want to lift “x” amount of weight. Reach “x” level of competition. And win at your sport’s highest level. Others are wanting to start their first business, or perhaps they already have, and are stuck in the midst of the early stages, continually beating their head against the wall in attempt to find the “magic” idea that will change everything overnight. And yet others have set personal health or financial goals, are can’t seem to wrap their mind around why they have yet to hit the same win’s as those “friends” they follow on Facebook.

Regardless of your goal, you are not alone in feeling stuck. We see success all over social media, and in turn begin to compare our “behind the scenes mess with their Sportscenter social media highlight reel.” (credits: Steven Furtick). We become frustrated. Isn’t there one thing I can do to finally get over this “hump” and hit my own journey’s tipping point?

Yes, there is.