TRUE GRIT: Can It Really Be Measured?

In Talent Development, we measure everything. We set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and try to align them with specific skills and competencies for each job role. Then we attempt to attract, recruit and develop people, measuring and adjusting all along the way.

But the one thing talent experts struggle with daily is our inability to really measure and determine drive, i.e. GRIT.

Someone who looks good on paper, with all the right skills, experience and background, can still fail in their job. Sure, we have a multi-tiered interviewing process with targeted questions and scenarios, but human beings are clever.

Magicians have a dirty little secret related to this fact. Raymond Joseph Teller (of Penn & Teller fame) revealed that:

“One of the dirty secrets is that a magician does his/her best work with a willing audience. People want to be amazed. All magic requires misdirection, sure, but the audience is usually in a frame of mind that’s willing to suspend disbelief for a moment long enough for the magician to exploit it.”

Some people are just great interviewers and can game the system to their advantage, especially when we desperately WANT to hire the right person. We are the willing audience, just like the crowds that gather to see a magician.

In talent development, we are either at the mercy of candidates who can fool us, or by our own positive subjectivity. These are the barriers that prevent us from identifying, promoting and measuring drive or GRIT.

In her book “Grit,” Angela Duckworth’s research focuses on two traits that predict achievement: grit and self-control. She argues that Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goal, while self-control is the voluntary regulation of impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations.

Duckworth states that, “On average, individuals who are gritty are more self-controlled, but the correlation between these two traits is not perfect: Some individuals are paragons of grit but not self-control, and some exceptionally well-regulated individuals are not especially gritty.”

Duckworth has even put together an assessment tool to measure someone’s grittiness. She has devised a Grit Scale whose intent is to measure Grit and Self-Control. You can take the assessment right here:

It’s important to note that the author warns:

“These scales were originally designed to assess individual differences rather than subtle within-individual changes in behavior over time. Thus, it’s uncertain whether they are valid indicators of pre- to post-change as a consequence of interventions. I also discourage the use of these scales in high-stakes settings where faking is a concern (e.g., admissions or hiring decisions).”

So, though there is some compelling research being done around measuring drive and Grit, the jury is still out.

But, I have a feeling that if someone does figure out this complex problem, it will be through perseverance, determination and you guessed it… GRIT.