This topic may seem a little unusual for me to be blogging about.  Perhaps it is but we are increasingly looking at the connection between how engaged employees are and how this impacts the quality of service an organization delivers and, ultimately, its financial success.  I personally think that those people who feel successful at what they do are far more likely to be engaged with their life’s work.  But just what contributes to one being successful?

There have been many studies done over the years to answer this question.  Some studies point to the importance of going to a prestigious university.  Other studies highlight the connection between life success and material status of your family.  Perhaps the most interesting and insightful research I have seen comes from Angela Lee Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania.  Her research has to do with the impact of what she calls “grit” and its impact on a person’s success or failure.

Professor Duckworth defines grit as that “ability to be resilient in the face of failure or adversity and having a compelling passion in your life.”  One of the most interesting research projects she did was at the West Point Military Academy.  Admission to West Point is based on academic performance, SAT scores, class rank, leadership ability and physical aptitude.  The US Army has combined these factors into a Whole Candidate Score to determine admission.  However, 1 in 20 cadets drop out during the physical training that occurs over the summer prior to the first year.  Professor Duckworth administered her “grit” test to several entering classes.  What she discovered is that the results from her test were a far better predictor of whether or not a student would drop out compared to the whole candidate score.

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She has replicated this test in a number of other situations with similar results.  In fact, you can take her online test and see how much “grit” you have (https://sasupenn.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_06f6QSOS2pZW9qR).

What does this have to do with customer service, business, or engaged employees?  I would say plenty.  There are plenty of organizations where a job is a job.  How do you make that job special?  How do you create an organization with the kinds of attributes that provide an opportunity for people to be passionate about their work and demonstrate grit in the face of the daily ups and downs of taking care of customers and others?

I will have some additional thoughts about this last question in next week’s blog.  In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Professor Duckworth’s fascinating research, click on any of the links below.


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