Beyond the Build

Leadership

True Grit.

Charles Portis penned the novel True Grit in 1968. It was subsequently made into a movie in 1969 and a remake was released in 2010. The story is of a 16-year-old girl, an aging U.S. Marshall and a Texas Ranger. The trio overcame an endless succession of challenges to the avenge the murder of the girl’s father.

I can’t help comparing the storyline to business. Individual intelligence and brainpower always helps the team, but combine this with some true grit personas and then you have real wins.

Our worlds are anything but linear right now, where a clear set of inputs yields the desired results. This just is not happening. We’re looking for people who have the determination to succeed in the face of adversity. These folks are capable and will to learn the qualities of persistence, consciousness, self-confidence, self-control and motivation. A psychologist may call them personality traits. We choose to refer to these non-cognitive skills as character.

But there’s a tricky part. How do you teach “true grit” character without wrecking the ship or impacting opportunities, especially in these times when opportunities are not as plentiful?

Here’s what we’re doing :

Nothing. (This may sound a bit strange, I know.) At times we might allow individuals to face adversity on their own, offering no guidance or leadership. If they fall down, we might leave it to them to get back up on their own. By backing off a bit, sometimes the message is more impactful.

Permitting failure. Those who are willing to take on the tasks are given the license to fail sometimes. The lowered pressure brings many more successes.

Evaluate. When the desired outcome is not achieved, review what could have been done differently. Let failures be a powerful lesson learned.

I’m determined that overcoming adversity produces better character and will make our company stronger. Sometimes I think character weights more than intelligence. At times, this is what leads to lasting success. How have earned character qualities impacted your business?

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.