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Monday, December 10, 2012

How Children (and Adults) Succeed

At the prompting of Joe Adams with The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA),  I just read the book How Children Succeed: Grit Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough.  Joe captured my attention about this book when he was giving a presentation to the Decatur City Schools Foundation on their standardized test scores.  Joe was asked the question, "Well how do we help kids succeed in school" (or at least that was the basic just of the question).  

Joe caught my attention when he pointed to this book and said,  "I didn't earn my PhD because I'm smart, I earned it because I would put up with more crap than anyone else."  While you might find this statement odd, what the book and Joe intend to mean is that we are missing the mark if we think teaching purely academic skills are what make children and people in general successful.

I think the same is true of the work environment.  If we think that only teaching people the technical skills necessary for the job is going to make them successful, then we are wrong. 

Here are some key points to consider from the book in helping people succeed: 

1.  Provide secure environments for people to live, work, play and learn.  In the working world, provide a work environment that provides support, especially support during stressful situations.  This is especially important for young children, and in my opinion, especially important for new hires in an organization.  An organized new hire orientation period where training and support are provided and expectations are established can lead to much success down the road for that employee.  For tools on this, click here.
2. Being a "helicopter" parent or boss, doesn't work.   In fact, it can be as detrimental to success as being an absent parent or boss.  Micromanaging and swooping in to "rescue" all the time does not lead to successful people. 
3. Allow people to fail.  That's where the most learning takes place. 
4. Challenge people.  No one succeeds, or leads a fulfilling life when the status quo is never challenged. 
5.  Speaking of a fulfilling life, help people develop grit in their work to lead to productivity and fulfillment.  Angela Duckworth who is chronicled in the book defines grit as "a passionate commitment to a single mission and an unswerving dedication to achieve that mission."  This involves getting people on the right seat on the bus or allowing them to get off your bus and join another one if the grit just isn't there. 
6.  Hard work matters and it leads to success and fulfillment.  In fact, determination and hard work matter more than a person's intellect.  

What type of characteristics does your work environment or leadership style have that help people succeed? 

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