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Is Your Workforce Determined Enough?

10 February 2017

Is Your Workforce Determined Enough?


Perseverance, the ability to deal with setbacks and devise strategies for overcoming obstacles, has long been a vital characteristic of valued employees in most businesses. One that’s set to become even more important as uncertainty generated by Brexit creates even more challenges.

But what exactly is perseverance, and is it an aspect of personality some people are just born with or something that everyone can learn to acquire?

Although perseverance, or ‘grit’ as it’s referred to in psychological circles, might seem like an elusive trait that you either do or don’t have, it’s actually an attribute we can all develop – not least because it’s directly linked to our willingness to embrace failure.

Instead of getting crumpled by setbacks, people with high levels of grit are prepared to fail. Rather than beating themselves up when something doesn’t go exactly to plan, or staying in their comfort-zone to avoid failing, they have developed a mindset that allows them to embrace setbacks as part of a learning process. As Henry Ford, who introduced the concept of mass production to the car industry, once observed, “One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.” Modern day entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson is also a fan of failure, saying, “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”

Not only does this growth mindset typically make determined people more successful, as they find ways to work around obstacles without losing sight of the end goal, but they’re also much less likely to suffer from the low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders that can result from putting too much pressure on themselves to get things right first time.

To increase the grit displayed by your workforce, and boost their mental health in the process, here are five psychological insights to get you started…


How to make your workforce more determined

1. Ride the ups and downs

Businesses need persevering individuals because of the challenging economic climate and uncertainty around Brexit. The simple fact is we don’t know yet how things will pan out, so it’s about learning to take small steps in the dark, putting one foot in front of the other until the picture becomes clearer. This will require everyone to step out of their comfort zone. Employers can help to make the prospect of this less scary by reassuring employees taking on new roles or trying to find their way in new markets that’s it’s okay to ride the ups and downs. Some things will go well, others not so well. What matters isn’t finding ways to adapt perfectly, but learning as you go along. Instead of allowing employees to think that if everything doesn’t go perfectly it’s been a total disaster, encourage them to also consider what went right and what can be reused to become more successful next time. Somewhat ironically, it’s only by giving employees permission to fail, that you can give them the confidence needed to become more determined to succeed next time.


2. Connect to the bigger picture

When employees understand the purpose of what they’re doing, it not only increases their passion but also their determination to succeed. Long-term goals provide the context and framework in which to find the meaning and value of sustained effort. If someone thinks that they’re just building a wall, they will naturally be much less motivated and determined to do a great job than if they’re aware that every carefully laid brick is helping to create a great cathedral. It becomes very easy for people further down the hierarchy to become disconnected from the overall goals of the organisation. But if you want to cultivate grit – drive, determination, passion and courage – it’s essential that you find a way of enabling each and every employee to link what they’re doing to the overall mission for the business. These might include developing innovative products, providing meaningful, highly valued services, driving the industry agenda, acting as a thought leader or setting new standards of best practice. That way, when they hit an obstacle, they’ll instinctively remind themselves of the bigger picture at stake and dig deep instead of giving up. If the organisation’s goals aren’t enough to motivate them, what personal goals can work help them to achieve?


3. Focus on strengths

We’re naturally more motivated, energised and successful when we focus on what we naturally enjoy and excel at, than when we try to force ourselves to do tasks we don’t enjoy. So much so that an emphasis on strengths in appraisals has been linked to a 36% improvement in performance, whereas an emphasis on weaknesses is linked to a 26% decline in performance1. Instead of allowing employees to continually waste time and effort on tasks they struggle to do and dislike doing, one of the best ways to increase their determination is to assess their strengths, using one of the many psychometric tools now available, and focus their efforts on tasks that allow them to play to those strengths. For example, if someone hates presenting, but has a real flair for writing, they could be encouraged to start writing a company blog or weekly customer newsletter to share their ideas and insights. Similarly, if someone loves connecting with others, but spends most the day sat alone surrounded by blue screens, think about ways in which the organisation could benefit from moving them into a more customer-facing role. Not only does a strengths-focused approach to management increase employee determination, it will also result in far higher levels of productivity and engagement.


4. Help to cope with setbacks

If you want your workforce to get the job done, meet their deadlines, be consistent and reliable, they need to know how to cope with setbacks so that they don’t get crushed by failures. Determined people don’t expect things to be easy or successful first time round on every occasion. Instead, they anticipate obstacles and have strategies in place for dealing with setbacks. If someone has been placed in a new role, a psychologically intelligent thing is for them to pre-empt potential obstacles, such as not being able to use the technology in that department, departmental politics or taking longer than anticipated to get up-to-speed. By anticipating these obstacles in advance and thinking about how they can access support to get through them, they are much less likely to get derailed or upset. At the same time, even the most persevering employees realise they can’t pre-empt every challenge, so they also have strategies in place to enable them to cope with having to operate out of their comfort zone, such as using the EAP to get emotional support if things get too much, talking to friends and family outside of work, getting enough sleep, eating well, taking regular breaks and psychologically recharging themselves by doing a hobby or sport they enjoy and are proficient at to keep their self-confidence high.


5. Boost resilience

Determined people are naturally resilient. They know how to overcome setbacks, get up and dust themselves down before starting again. The only reason this is possible is because they also operate high-levels of self-care, constantly mindful of how well they’re coping with difficulties so that they can tap into extra support and recharge when needed. Muscles grow, not while we’re exerting ourselves, but while we’re resting after that exertion. Elite athletes know how to drive their performance to the edge of their abilities, but also understand the importance of recuperating and not pushing themselves past their limits. To make your workforce determined, as opposed to just stressed, you have to not only teach employees how to face challenges so they can stretch themselves to their edges of their current limits, but also the importance of not going beyond this. Of course, everyone’s individual limits are unique: one person might positively thrive on levels of challenge that would compel someone else to call in sick. Resilience training can help by giving employees the psychological insights they need to face challenges with an open mindset, identify where their limits are, get the support they need and psychological recharge when needed.


For more information about how our resilience training can help employees and managers to build strengths to cope with challenges and change, please contact your Validium customer relationship manager.




  • The Strengths-Focused Guide to Leadership, Kathy Toogood & Mike Rotary :]