The New Science of What It Takes to Persevere, Flourish, Succeed

grit2

Consultant and author Paul Stoltz has previously written extensively on adversity, developing what he calls the “Adversity Quotient,” which measures the ability to leverage setbacks and failures into success. Stoltz has more recently discovered, however, that while AQ is essential to success, it is not sufficient. As he explains in his new book, GRIT: The New Science of What It Takes to Persevere – Flourish – Succeed, “If AQ is all about how you effectively deal with ‘it’ — whatever comes at you — then GRIT is about what it takes to really go for ‘it’ — your boldest and most important goals — and make ‘it’ happen.” AQ, he writes, is your defense, but GRIT is your offense.

Stoltz uses the word “GRIT” in two ways. Although consistently in all caps, GRIT is used at the beginning of the book as a word that encapsulates the offensive counterpoint to adversity, as described above. In his second chapter, Stoltz introduces the four dimensions of GRIT, which then becomes both word and acronym. These dimensions are:

Growth. Growth refers to a mindset that is constantly looking for the new and the different. Growth, Stoltz writes, is “your propensity to seek and consider new ideas, additional alternatives, different approaches and fresh perspectives.”

Resilience. The core of Stoltz’s original research and writing, resilience is the ability not only to bounce back from adversity but, more importantly, to make constructive use of the adversity.

Instinct. The focus here, according to Stoltz, is to know instinctively which goals to pursue and how to pursue them.

Tenacity. Most quests are going to be longer and more difficult than anticipated. Tenacity separates those who succeed from those who fail.

Stoltz emphasizes that not all GRIT is good. To help readers visualize the positive and negative facets of GRIT, Stoltz presents his six-faced GRIT grid cube, with opposing faces representing good and bad, smart and dumb, and strong and weak GRIT. Stoltz explores each facet in detail. For example, bad GRIT, he writes, is evident when people relentlessly pursue goals that aim to hurt people, gain benefits at another’s expense or unintentionally pursue a damaging goal. Stoltz cites the example of a humanitarian organization that installed 10 million hand pumps in Bangladesh to help the impoverished population get access to water. Unfortunately, the water pumped up was filled with arsenic.

To exemplify good GRIT, Stoltz offers as an example his wife, Ronda Beaman, who was diagnosed with MS 24 years ago. A personal fitness trainer, Beaman was told, when diagnosed, to slow down, but refused. Twenty-four years later, she is still working out as hard as ever, despite occasional intense pain in her shoulders and weird headaches.

Stoltz offers equally compelling stories of dumb vs. smart and weak vs. strong GRIT. The ultimate goal, he writes, is to achieve “optimal GRIT” — which is, according to Stoltz, “when you consistently and reliably demonstrate your fullest, “goodest,” smartest and strongest GRIT to achieve your goals.”

This definition is expanded later in the book, as Stoltz moves readers to more advanced notions of GRIT. First, he includes what he calls the “four capacities” of GRIT: emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. GRIT must not only be smart, good and strong but also emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually balanced, Stoltz explains. GRIT must also be present in a wide variety of situations (work, school, relationships, money-related situations and more). Finally, GRIT begins with the individual but then moves up what Stoltz labels the “grit ladder,” through the relational, team, organizational and, finally, societal “rungs.”

As Stoltz expands and deepens his definition of optimal GRIT, he describes how to both gauge and grow one’s grit, offering a number of different tools for each. Stoltz is a veteran consultant, whose Adversity and GRIT techniques and tools have been used by Fortune 100 companies around the world and taught in schools as prestigious as the Harvard Business School and MIT — which is why GRIT is not a philosophical treatise but a toolbox for life.

How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way

SHIFTING FOCUS TO THE NEEDS OF THE PATIENT

In December of 2004, the 77-year-old father of James Merlino, a colorectal surgeon in training at the Cleveland Clinic, came to the hospital for a biopsy, expecting to be discharged later in the day. Merlino’s father never left the hospital, unexpectedly dying seven days later.

As he describes in his book, Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way, Merlino was devastated by his father’s death, not only because it was so unexpected but also because of the way his father had spent those final days — days of frustration at unresponsive nurses, insensitive doctors and inefficient service, combined with the growing fear that he was going to die.

His father’s death was a turning point for Merlino, who recognized that, contrary to what was taught to rising young doctors, medicine should not be simply the emotionless treatment of disease. Hospitals needed to focus on the entire experience of the patient.

Merlino left the Cleveland Clinic but returned a few years later under a new CEO who had launched a revolutionary Patients First mission for the hospital. Merlino would eventually become the Chief Experience Officer of the Cleveland Clinic. Service Fanatics is the story of how he and the new CEO, Toby Cosgrove, turned the mission of Patients First into reality. Today, the Patients First mindset drives every decision and process of the Cleveland Clinic.

The Cleveland Clinic story is one of overcoming resistance and derision and battling the egos of doctors who treated patients as numbers or diseases, not as people. While doctors attempted to resolve the disease as best they could, they had no awareness of the fears and needs of the person behind the disease. The patient was almost irrelevant; it was the ailment that was the focus.

It is the story of transforming a hospital into a place in which every person on staff is considered and expected to be a “caregiver.” In his quest to transform the hospital’s approach to patients, Merlino conducted extensive research with other hospitals and explored other organizations and industries beyond the medical profession.

One of the first steps in creating a new Patients First environment, Merlino writes, was to precisely define the goal. The challenge in medicine is that the customer is not always right. In Merlino’s specialty, for example, patients must rise from bed the day after their surgery since getting up and walking around is essential to ensuring a good recovery. Patients, however, consider this obligatory exercise the sign of an insensitive doctor. Thus, unlike a restaurant, customer satisfaction can be a treacherous measure for whether a hospital is doing the best job it can.

Eventually, Merlino and his team at the Cleveland Clinic defined Patients First as 1) Safe Care, 2) Quality Care, 3) Customer Satisfaction and 4) High Value Care — in that specific order.

Service Fanatics is the careful narration of an organization meeting a customer-service challenge, and it is at once unique but filled with lessons for all types of organizations. Building the involvement of staff; adding to rather than changing your culture; executing by fixing processes first, then identifying best practices; and myriad other insights into transforming an organization, captured in valuable bullet points at the end of each chapter, will help leaders from all industries focus and align their businesses to the needs of the customer.

The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World

dolessbetter

OPTING TO CUT THE COMPANY DOWN TO SAVE IT

John Bell begins his book Do Less Better with the scenario of a troubled company — a regional player in 10 different categories, suffering through four consecutive years of losses, carrying higher than average payroll and inventory costs (the latter exacerbated by more than 1,000 SKUs), and starting to lose the support of impatient shareholders tired of pouring money into a losing cause.

What’s the next steps for a new CEO hired to turn around this sinking ship? If you’re like most new CEOs, Bell writes, you will do exactly what your predecessors tried to do: generate more revenues and cut costs. The difference is that you will do these things better. “You are kidding yourself,” Bell writes. “Strategically, doing more of the same… better is a pathway to incremental improvement, at best. Incremental improvement is never enough to fix strategically weak companies like the one I have described.”

The Greater Sacrifice

Instead of trying to do the same better, Bell believes a much more potent strategy is to make the tough decisions and cut the company down to a more efficient and focused size. Many companies are straining under the weight of their complexity and dispersion of resources, he writes.

He should know. The scenario above was real, and it was Bell who was tasked with saving the company.

Avoiding the incremental, top line-driven strategies described above, Bell and his team embarked instead on a no-holds-barred campaign to reduce activities and costs significantly. They did this by first eliminating the six poorest-performing product lines (out of 10). Even that, however, was not enough. A “greater sacrifice” was needed. “We didn’t want to do it,” Bell writes, “but we would have to divest two of the remaining sacred cows, two product lines with significant sales revenue and growth potential.”

The result was a company that went from 10 to two categories, from 1,000 to 35 SKUs, from more than 500 to 200 employees, and from $75 to $50 million in sales. However, the newly trimmed company was now focused almost entirely on its Nabob Coffee brand. Within three years, the company reached $100 million in sales (95 percent in coffee, 5 percent in tea) and would eventually boast 13 straight years of earnings growth before being sold to Kraft.

Cutting 300 employees and, probably more frightening for most CEOs, reducing the top line by $25 million was no small sacrifice. But as with gardens, courageous pruning, Bell argues, is what leads to growth. Many companies are hurting or, at best, stagnating because their leaders are afraid to, in the words of Bell, “kill their darlings.”

Bell offers one of his former clients, the Campbell Soup Company, as an example of a company that suffers from the refusal to cut loose a traditional business activity. Most consumers today are in the market for ready-made soup. There is not much call for condensed soup, although it has always been a staple of the company. Bell believed Campbell could break out of its stagnation, as other soup companies continue to grow around it, by stopping condensed soup and starting a brand new activity: soup bistros. There is a great market for gourmet soup cafés, inspired somewhat by the Starbucks chain of gourmet coffee shops, and Campbell would be the natural choice to start such a chain. The response from the Campbell Soup executive who listened to Bell’s idea was swift: “We aren’t in the restaurant business. Our mandate is to figure out how to bolster sales of condensed soup.”

For Bell, the first step to a new strategy is a new mindset from leaders, a mindset based on the courage to go small. It’s counterintuitive and may hurt in the short term, but for leaders considering such a move, reading Do Less Better is a great place to start.

Tools and Lessons in Transitioning to General Management

MANAGING THE WHAT, THE HOW AND THE WHY

The natural progression of a career often leads from a task-oriented position to a functional management position managing task-oriented people, and eventually to a general management position in which you are now “managing the managers.” This last step is often the most difficult.

For example, as co-authors Kevin Kaiser, Michael Pich and I.J. Schecter explain in their book Becoming a Top Manager, one of the core challenges of a general management position is the complexity of top management goals. When you’re a functional manager, goals are rather clear: tasks are defined, and unambiguous indicators determine whether or not those tasks have been achieved successfully. A top-level manager, on the other hand, has the responsibility of ensuring the short- and long-term value to the firm of activities and results, an objective that does not lend itself to easily defined indicators. In other words, the authors explain, general managers must not only concern themselves with the functional “what” but also the more strategic “how” and “why.”

The authors offer a unique manual on how to become an executive, based on their academic knowledge and experience combined with the crowdsourced knowledge and experience gathered from past participants of INSEAD’s executive education program.

Becoming a Top Manager is built around three fictional general managers who have just moved into their new roles. Each chapter consists of three scenarios involving each of the fictional general managers. Each scenario, presented in the form of a dialogue, is followed by comments from the executive education alumni, based on the scenario. The comments are grouped by general themes, which form key lesson points for readers. The authors offer additional thoughts and then move on to the next scenario with the next fictional manager.

The result is a potent mix of theoretical situations and real-world experience on the specific challenges faced by first-time executives.

How to Listen and Be Heard

For example, former functional managers may not have the savvy and skills required to influence and persuade others — one of the key skills of any successful executive. At the same time, general managers must be prepared to “learn how to learn” — to recognize that they will have to leave their comfort zones and listen objectively to what others are saying.

In one of the scenarios of the first chapter, the new general manager, “Nancy,” is startled and confused by another manager’s concerns about the value of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The other manager believes more thought should be given to long-term value than simply “hitting targets.” Long-term value, Nancy argues, cannot be achieved without short-term targets.

Among the comments from the executive education practitioners was general support for a combination of the two managers’ positions (e.g., “Most companies don’t do a good job of explaining how short-term targets fit into a larger mission”), recognition of the difficulty of leading change, as a new general manager, (e.g., “As a leader you need to… help shape programs while defending them to the people reporting to you”), and a mixed assessment of KPIs. “My company used KPIs. I found them totally counterproductive and I tried to insist that we stop using such metrics, or use them differently,” wrote one participant. “KPIs are essential to measure the true effectiveness of an organization. However, too many indicators don’t tell you if you are going to hit a roadblock or run out of gas soon. KPIs are efficient if they are aligned with a list of defined objectives for the company and they remain coherent from the executive team to those in the field,” wrote another.

As the authors explain in their discussion, in this case, “Nancy must find a way to fully appreciate what her colleague is trying to explain to her about the tendency of KPIs to drive short-term behaviors at the expense of long-term value creation.”

Using the experiences of three fictional managers to spark the contributions of the executive education participants is a brilliant method for bringing out the practical implications of the theory. The granular, real-world comments from practitioners combined with the ability of the authors to superbly synthesize the lessons from the scenarios and the responses lead to a first-class owner’s manual for the first-time executive.

How to Optimize Your Digital Footprint in a World Where Your Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset

LIVING ON THE GRID

Is your reputation ruined? Perhaps. And chances are great that if, indeed, insurance companies consider you uninsurable and potential employers consider you unemployable because of something in your digital “record,” you don’t even know it. Welcome to “The Reputation Economy,” the title of a new book by privacy experts Michael Fertik and David Thompson. The theme of The Reputation Economy is that soon, if not already, people know everything there is to know about you — and thus have enough “information” to define your reputation and take steps accordingly.

The Internet’s potential to hurt your reputation is not necessarily new. Clearly if your arrest makes the local newspaper, your name has been indelibly besmirched in hyperspace — but then it’s already been ruined in your community. What the digital age has changed in this example is the breadth of the impact — from your small town to, essentially, the world.

The future Reputation Economy, however, is not about general public information such as newspaper reports. Fertik and Thompson describe a 1984 world that watches every single move you make on the Internet. As they explain, “Massive digital dossiers are being developed on every individual, right down to the websites you visit and the links you click on. There is even a fast-growing underground economy of archives and data-storage sites that quietly collect records of trillions of online activities, often just waiting for someone to figure out a way to make use of all that data.”

And numerous websites are finding ways to make use of that data. Spokeo.com mines government records and address databases and makes them available. Klout goes even further, analyzing social media to determine a score on how much influence you might have. Despite some setbacks (notably Klout’s scoring Justin Bieber above Barack Obama), scoring sites are bound to become more numerous and more sophisticated.

The growth of all of these reputation scoring sites, the authors write, will inevitably culminate in “reputation engines.” “Instead of searching for Web pages with relevant information about a particular topic,” the authors write, “reputation engines will search the massive databases of personal information to return all of the relevant information about a person — or find a person who meets a set of criteria.”

It is impossible, according to the authors, to avoid becoming fodder for such reputation engines. “There’s no way to ‘live off the grid’ online,” the authors write. “The reputation engines of the future won’t have an easy opt-out mechanism, and we will all participate whether we like it or not.”

So, what to do? In essence, the authors recommend a “you can’t beat them, so join them” strategy. Don’t try to get off the grid. First, it’s nearly impossible. Even if you don’t have a Facebook page, your friends do and they’re posting pictures of you. And there will always be government records, and a variety of other digital trails of your existence.

Instead of trying to get off the grid, the authors write, it’s better to take charge of your reputation by carefully curating the information on the Internet. As with an art-exhibit curator who selects the pieces in the art show, curating your information on the Internet refers to selecting the “items” you want to highlight. For example, if there’s a picture of you and your sales team receiving an award for sales team of the month, post it. Curating also means avoiding the negative. For example, don’t use social media to insult others, the authors warn. You’ll be the one hurt in the long run. “By carefully curating and highlighting positive information — successes at work, trust among friends, a positive social life and more — you can flood the computers and scoring systems with the type of information you prefer.”

Fertik is the CEO and founder of Reputation.com. Thomas is the chief privacy officer of Reputation.com. In short, the authors of The Reputation Economy are in the business of privacy. For the majority of the reading public, who may be only dimly aware of the breadth and depth of intrusion allowed by the Internet of today — and even less aware of what awaits on the horizon, The Reputation Economy offers vital advice on how to protect yourself from harm. And even better, according to the authors, anyone can turn the threats of the reputation economy into opportunities.