Growing up in Florida, we heard rumors of this thing called winter. So, when I got a call that we were going to Wisconsin it took me a few hours to realize, “Wait. It’s January!” But what I got to see there was not just the snow or the frozen river that the Uber driver seemed a little too excited to point out to me. What really struck me was the resiliency and adaptability of the people.

One of two things happen when you live in Wisconsin; either you adapt to life in the winter, or you move. And the people who live there have clearly adapted. They don’t just “put up” with the cold, they make things work. For example, they built a system known as the “Skywalk” to be able to get around the city without going outside.

The same theme of resilience is true in business. If the COVID-19 Pandemic showed us anything, it’s that people are resilient. When push comes to shove, organizations can get up and go. However, where do they go from there? Despite this resiliency, what we must now consider is sustainability. How do you have your people displaying this type of resiliency all the time without burning out? Sure, you can keep pushing your people, but with the great resignation, you may lose some valuable ones who seek work elsewhere. When one person leaves, it puts stress on the rest of the system, making sustainably producing these results even less likely.

The key to sustainability is developing grit in your organization. Grit starts with something you are working toward and can be developed by looking in the three areas of practice, purpose, and perseverance. It is important to note that practice refers to not climbing the mountain on the first hike. You must build up to things. Pick your end goal, keep it in mind, and take things in stages to reach it. Purpose is the passion that gets you up on the mat to go to work on what needs to get done regardless of circumstances of discomfort. Finally, perseverance is not treating failure as an end. Every experience can and should be learned from in service of the ultimate goal.

Of course, we all know telling people these things is not enough to help them develop the grit that will define the organization’s success. To start, this might look like setting an unlikely but achievable goal, one that is inspiring, and communicating it widely. With that in place, not just on the wall or in a spreadsheet, but being talked about throughout the organization, structures will help to keep it in existence and encourage behaviors that will move the ball forward. This could look like removing barriers that run counter to these practices or recognizing and encouraging the behaviors that contribute to their development.

While the Wisconsin winter may not be for everyone, it serves as a prime example of resiliency and grit in practice. By developing grit in your organization you greatly increase your chances of making it through the negative temperatures and frozen rivers to enjoy the beautiful springtime.

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