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This Book Upends Everything We Thought We Knew About Where Grit Comes From and How to Get It

For years, researchers have shown that raw IQ or academic prowess aren’t everything. Paul Tough’s 2013 book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power if Character showed how grit—defined as perseverance and passion for achieving challenging long-term goals(pdf)—and other character qualities, were critical to children’s success in school and later on in life.

Teaching grit and other character qualities in schools took off: grit guides were developed in Pearland, Texas schools; teachers across the country built grit lesson plans. This fall, a handful of California school districts will test students on the skills, to meet new national education standards.

But teaching grit is tricky. “There’s no evidence that any particular curriculum or textbook or app can effectively teach kids grit or self-control or curiosity,” says Tough.

“It’s not an inherent trait, you can’t give students a test and know if they have it,” Tough said. “It’s a series of behaviors or habits.”

When Tough examined how to actually impart these qualities for his follow-up book author of Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why, research into neurobiology and motivation led him to conclude that teaching grit was not...

10 Ways to Foster Relationships in 10 Minutes or Less

I often hear from leaders that they have higher priorities on their plate than making connections with others. The truth is that things don’t get done if you don’t connect to the people who are contributing to those deadlines and bottom-lines. Why would others care about you and the organizational initiatives you’re responsible for if you don’t show that you appreciate and value their contributions?

There are many things you can do to foster amazing, supportive relationships in a small amount of time.

Consider the following that could be done in 10 minutes or less:

Tell them what they’re doing well. Your stakeholders are weary of critical feedback. Try watching for what others are doing well and tell them what you notice.

Write a thank-you note. Handwritten is best but even an email thanking someone for their support, kindness, or an extra effort will go a long way to build a relationship.

Encourage them when they’re down. Everyone needs a little extra “I know you can do it!” from time to time. Watch for opportunities to encourage others.

Coach them when they’re stuck. Ask, “What would you do if you weren’t stuck...

Slow Down: You're Probably Screwing Up

I did this crazy thing the other day. It was so out of character. I went to the library.

They had a shelf called "great reads." I went over to it and ran my hand along the modest beat-up walnut. One book stood out. It was old, but I'd always wanted to read it.

New notifications said my cellphone, and then it started beeping. Texts. Annoyed, I put it away.

As a kid, time seemed to crawl. Now, many years later, I realize the value of slowing down.

This month's Harvard Business Review has a cover story called "Managing the High-Intensity Workplace." It's about the strategies people use to deal with an unreasonably demanding environment, which is to say most workplaces these days.

Briefly, most people:

  • Go along and lose their personal lives;
  • Pretend to go along and burn out along the way, ultimately burning out from the stress; or
  • Admit that they're not automatons and get punished. 

Boy, have things changed in just a few decades. And there isn't even a reward for it.

Why exactly are we in school day and night, chasing degrees that yield debt but not a job?

Why are...

Why Do So Many Feds Shun the Senior Executive Service?

Recent surveys by the Partnership for Public Service and Vanderbilt University found that more than 40 percent of high-level government professionals do not aspire to the Senior Executive Service.

With 85 percent of our nation’s 7,000 career senior executives eligible to retire in the next decade, federal agencies need to rethink how they recruit and hire for the SES, according to a new report from the Partnership for Public Service and McKinsey & Company.

Inspired by the 2015 executive order on strengthening the Senior Executive Service, the report—“A Pivotal Moment for the Senior Executive Service”—describes practices to bolster the SES, including ways to simplify cumbersome application and hiring processes to broaden the number and diversity of well-qualified people who apply.

Many federal agencies struggle in these areas; however, a number of agencies are doing well at finding ways to recruit a more diverse, highly-qualified pool of candidates.

Nixing Lengthy Essays

Unlike private-sector companies, most federal agencies require applicants for top jobs to write long essays on their work experience and qualifications just to make it past the first round. These essays typically need to fit a certain federal style that can frustrate or eliminate outside applicants who...

12 Things Employers Can Do to Improve Gender Equality in the Workplace

Not all workplaces provide equal opportunities for men and women, but all should try. In a presentation yesterday at the Society of Human Resource Managers’ (SHRM) annual conference, Jonathan Segal, a labor attorney, laid out 12 practical steps employers can take to level the workplace for men and women. These tips are taken from his presentation.

1. Reassess job requirements for the senior leadership team.

Companies that aren’t hiring women for senior roles should consider what barriers they’ve constructed that prevents women from filling them. That doesn’t mean diluting requirements but asking if 15 years of management experience, for example, is necessary when 10 would do. Employers should consider including other types of experience that broadens the pool of possible candidates.

2. Expand the applicant pool.

If the goal is a diverse workplace, the pool of job candidates needs to be diverse as well. That means reaching out to professional groups, such as women engineers, and contacting employees—men and women—that left the firm to raise families to ask if they’d be interested in returning.

3. Consider your biases.

As Segal says, most employers understand the concept of unconscious bias, they just don’t believe...

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