What Role Does “Grit” Play in Professional Success?

Dr. Angela SuckworthBefore I researched this article, I thought that grit was an outdated concept that died with tough guys like John Wayne. To me the word conjures up images of tough guys who rode horses and didn’t shave for weeks at a time. But there is a growing trend among researchers that grit and not intelligence is a great indicator of the probability of professional and personal success. I thought this was an interesting concept because of the unique focus of project management on results. Could grit be the difference between success and mediocrity in project management?

I recently applied for a new job for a company that I has intrigued me for some time. The first step in the hiring process was to take an aptitude assessment. It tested your ability to recognize patterns and solve difficult equations. There were several word association questions that literally tested the boundaries of my command of the English language. I know there is no pass/fail on an aptitude test, but to be considered for a position with the company the first thing you must do is score a certain percentage on the test. Taking this into perspective, I thought I had failed and I bugged HR until they told me my score was high enough to be considered for the position.

I have owned and managed my own company for 13 years. If you have ever been an entrepreneur, you know the level of dedication and determination that it requires. Managing projects in school districts across the country, measuring outcomes, monitoring the implementation process, and attracting new clients was all up to me. My team provided needed support, but unless I did all of those steps well, payroll would not get met.

Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth gave what I think is a fantastic presentation at TED in 2013 called, “The Key to Success? Grit.” I know the concept is pretty basic and I would say that people have known that resiliency or grit is what can differentiate between someone who is successful and someone who is not. But Dr. Duckworth actually has the research to determine the probability that someone has the potential to be successful in a professional setting because of their desire and inner drive to succeed. She defines grit as the passion and perseverance to stick with long term goals. Check out her presentation.

You guys know I don’t think that a degree or certifications like the PMP, CSM, or PMC are predictors of success. I do think that if you are hiring a project manager you should look for someone with a track record of success. If you are looking for a job in project management your resume and portfolio should detail the biggest accomplishments of your career to date. You need to show that you have the drive and desire to accomplish project objectives even when the road is difficult and the proverbial train is leaving the rails.

What do you think? How many successful people have you worked with demonstrate grit?

Related Topics:
Cloud Enablement — How to Migrate to SaaS
SDLC — Software Development Lifecycle for Project Managers
Scrum and Timeboxing

About the Author

I am the author of this site, and what I say goes. I love talking about the benefits of formalized and professional project management and getting stuff done.