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Strategic Grit, Round 2: Sustaining

Photo of authors Holly Adams and Jennifer Horn-Frasier

By Jennifer Horn-Frasier and Holly Adams

In our second round of Strategic Grit blog posts, we focus on real-life stories, sharing examples of real people who use Strategic Grit to get things done and move themselves and their organizations forward.

In past posts, we’ve explored envisioning the future and taking the first steps in doing what is needed to create that future. Today, we’re exploring sustaining the effort of doing what is needed over time.

Jennifer: During the pandemic, lots of people bought houseplants. So many new plant parents! I received a lovely succulent to brighten my office space. I read the care instructions that came with the plant and made a mental note: water every three weeks. I so wanted to be a good plant parent.

But six months later, my succulent is two-thirds brown, clearly distressed, and undergoing emergency porch therapy in hopes that the fresh (humid) summer air and brighter light will perk it up. It’s not looking good.

Why did I fail? Because I didn’t practice what I preach.

When an organization sets aside the time and energy to devote to envisioning and planning for a new future, it must commit to realizing that future. No organization should envision and plan for the future unless it is committed to investment in those plans. A regular investment of time and energy is the only way to bring the envisioned future to life.

In the Strategic Doing methodology that I use with organizations, this regular investment relies on 30/30 meetings. 30/30s require teams to look back at what has been accomplished since the last meeting (30 days prior); to evaluate how effective actions taken were in moving the team closer to its goals; to adjust plans based on learning and current conditions; to personally commit to taking specific actions during the next 30 days; and to set the date and time for the next 30/30 meeting.

In other words, each 30/30 meeting includes an evaluation of what’s been done, an adjustment of plans as needed, and the creation of a clear plan of action for the next 30 days. 30/30 meetings allow for rapid learning and quick changes that help keep projects on the path forward.

In the case of my poor succulent, I left out the learning/adapting part of the 30/30 equation. I didn’t monitor the soil between waterings. I didn’t consider the shock of the transition from dry, forced-air heating to open-windows warmth and humidity. I made the classic error of making a plan (to water my plant every three weeks) and then sticking it on the shelf to gather dust (not giving it regular attention and energy).

My clients have much better results.

A coalition of people was concerned about the lack of affordable and accessible child care in their community, and they came together to find solutions. They developed a shared vision of a better future and started designing projects to move the community toward this future. But then the pandemic changed everything, and none of the original plans made sense.

In a traditional strategic planning situation, this might have caused the group to put everything on hold. But because this group was using Strategic Doing, it was equipped to adapt. The group still had its overarching goal of creating a community with high-quality, affordable, and accessible childcare, so the group adjusted to accommodate the changed circumstances.

The group’s discipline of regular meetings with clear actions, evaluations of effectiveness, and informed adjustments enabled them to move forward despite the pandemic. They succeeded in providing desperately needed childcare solutions in time for the start of the school year. Now that vaccines have arrived, the group is once again reassessing the path to their goal.

Take action. Evaluate effectiveness. Commit to the next action. Repeat.

Holly: I thought puppies were popular during the pandemic, not houseplants! But you make an excellent point, Jennifer. 😊

Failure to sustain an action is common. There are personal ones such as the New Year’s resolution to visit the gym twice a week that lasts a week. Or the plan to “get organized” that doesn’t even last a day. There are professional examples, too. The “strategic initiative” communicated at the company-wide meeting that’s forgotten as soon as the energy of delivering the message fades. A local company recently rolled out an accountability-based program (complete with “action” cards) that was quickly abandoned when employees realized there was no buy-in from managers.

Ah, but the success stories can be amazing.

I have an elderly friend who had COVID-19, was under intense medical care for quite awhile, and is now back at home. I have a client who met her goal of scoring high on the MCAT. I know a manager who is building a solid foundation of trust with her newly-formed team, and a thought leader who is creating an impressive network of professional connections by sharing his specialized expertise on LinkedIn.

The keywords in any successful Strategic Grit story are grace and discipline.

When I say “grace,” I don’t mean accepting defeat with poise. I mean handling adversity with equanimity. The failed attempts at determining the most effective process provide the best learning opportunities. And every one of the people mentioned above gave themselves some grace, considered the difficulty as a data point, and adjusted their course accordingly. In some cases, they did quit, but they only stopped the parts of the process that weren’t working for them.

When the original study schedule for the MCAT wasn’t working for my client, she switched her workouts from morning to midday and added an extra 30 minutes of study time between tutoring sessions. When the manager received critical feedback from a tenured employee, she kept her emotions in check and responded with a genuine appreciation for the employee’s critique. The thought leader struck out a couple of times when followers disagreed with his thinking, but this didn’t stop him from trying again. He sought feedback and honed his message.

Grace comes first, followed by discipline. By incorporating an evaluation element into the Strategic Grit formula, we can identify an ineffective course of action and adjust. We need the discipline to evaluate, the discipline to know what to keep, and the discipline to know what to toss.

Putting it together:

As we’ve worked through our blog series, we’ve developed a working definition of Strategic Grit: Applying grace and discipline as you take action, evaluate, commit, and repeat. We also acknowledge that Strategic Grit includes an element of “strategic quit,” knowing what to stop doing because it no longer gets us where we need to go.

Strategy and development are all about responding to the questions of “Where are we going?” and “How will we get there?” We delight in helping organizations (Jennifer) and individuals and teams (Holly) learn and apply the concepts of Strategic Grit to create the future they desire.

Whether you have thoughts to share about Strategic Grit or are curious about what it might look like to work together, we’d love to hear from you. We’ll be back with more soon!

About Jennifer:

Jennifer helps businesses, nonprofits, and community coalitions with strategic evolution: tackling complex problems, determining strategic direction, and taking action to create a new future. She is a Certified Strategic Doing Workshop Leader. Learn more at http://bluebirdskysolutions.com/.

About Holly:

Holly works with individuals and teams to help them forge and refine purposeful leadership and authentic collaboration as they navigate planned routes and unexpected detours. She is a certified Human Resources Professional and Mental Toughness Trainer. Learn more at https://hollyadamsconsulting.com/.

Strategic Grit was born of the lessons (sometimes painful, sometimes joyful) we learned in 2020, a unique year in many ways. We learned some of these lessons on our own through our research and personal experiences, and some through our work with clients. But the theme that stands out is this: Those best equipped to ride out tumultuous times are agile, resilient, and forward-thinking. These are people and organizations with Strategic Grit: a resilience that is not random but well-planned, effective, and durable.

Strategic Grit, Round 2: Doing

Photo of authors Holly Adams and Jennifer Horn-Frasier

By Jennifer Horn-Frasier and Holly Adams
May 2021

In our second round of Strategic Grit blog posts, we are focusing on real-life stories, sharing examples of real people who use Strategic Grit to get things done and move themselves and their organizations forward.

Holly: To kick things off, I’m going to “sing” a few lines from one of my favorite Elvis songs. 😊

Come on baby, I’m tired of talking
Grab your coat and let’s start walking
A little less conversation, a little more action.

To encourage action, I ask clients: What’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? The question is from the book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

Profoundly simple, this question is the first step to clarifying what to do FIRST. Even when we have fantastic, grand plans, the real magic is in doing, and the most challenging part to doing is initiating the doing.

Let me walk you through an example of using Strategic Grit to address overwhelm, which makes doing impossible. My client, a mid-level manager, struggled to keep up with her day-to-day responsibilities. She felt like she was always putting out fires and that she was missing out on building relationships with her team or proactively addressing compliance concerns.

When I asked her the One Thing question, her answer was delegation. Ah, ha! She knew what to do, but she wasn’t doing it. I pressed on with another question. What exactly did she need to delegate? She had a project in mind, creating annual compliance reports for her clients, that she wanted to transition to a team member. Even more clarity! We were then able to pinpoint specific action items that would ensure the successful transition of the project to the team member within 90 days. Boom!

There are two additional elements to consider when building and maintaining momentum.

  1. Start with the smallest incremental step possible.
    • When I first started a mindfulness practice, I literally started with a 1-minute meditation. I gradually added time to each session, but I knew I had to start small to make the habit stick.
  2. Understand that you will have to experiment.
    • Try something, evaluate its effectiveness, and then make adjustments. Back to my mindfulness practice. I tried sitting in silence for a minute; it wasn’t comfortable and didn’t yield the results I was looking for. I tried guided meditation (in which someone walked me through breathing exercises and relaxation techniques); it worked much better. I continue to make adjustments. Rarely do we have the “secret” figured out from the get-go.

Jennifer: You might know this quote from management expert Peter Drucker: “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” And there is an excellent reason this quote is so often referenced: It can be hard to translate plans into action, to turn thinking into doing.

 In our last post, we shared examples from the first steps of Strategic Grit: vividly picturing the future an individual or a team wants to bring to life. Once that future vision is created in detail, plans for achieving it develop. The conversation moves from “What could we do?” to “What should we do?” And then it is time to answer the question of “What will we do?”

It is at this point that momentum can screech to a halt. The energy must move from the conversation and collective dreaming to actions individual people agree to take on. This can feel daunting. It takes grit to power through.

Let’s look at an example.

A team of multidisciplinary faculty members at a large research university joined together to create a new research center. Their vision was a thriving research community centered on gaming that would strengthen 21st Century work and learning. They engaged in deep conversations to collectively imagine what achieving this vision would look like. As you can imagine, it was a complex picture, involving many different stakeholders, critical infrastructure, events, and more.

In addition to creating this shared vision, they inventoried the assets or resources they collectively had to put to use. They looked at what they could do with these assets in support of the vision, then they evaluated what they should do with them.

Because time and resources are limited—you can’t tackle everything at once—a starting point needed to be identified. So, the team rated the whittled-down list of what should be done according to how easy or difficult it would be to implement each idea, as well as how great of an impact each would likely have on moving the group closer to achieving their vision. Using this rating system, the group identified a starting point.

This starting point was a “pathfinder project” focused not on winning multi-million-dollar research grants or hosting a national conference—both of which are future goals—but on developing a sense of community among the members of the center. Each member was part of the new center because s/he was already engaged in related work. Allowing everyone to learn more about each other’s work would help create a sense of team and reveal existing synergies; where work in support of the center’s goals could grow out of work already under way.

A small team of center members was formed to devise ways to help the center’s members learn more about one another’s work and develop camaraderie. Each team member committed to taking an action in support of this sub-goal. No more than an hour or two of work/action was required of each person. In the end, the entire center enjoyed a series of informative and social events that allowed everyone to develop a deeper understanding of their colleagues’ work and to begin to identify potential collaborations.

When you step back and look at this from a distance, the first action seems much less grand than the overall vision for the center. It’s important to remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The move from planning to doing is crucial.

Putting it together:

How about you? What have you been thinking about and planning? What is just one small step you can take this week to start your shift from planning to doing?

For our next post, we’ll look at ways to sustain the action once you get started. In the meantime, if you’d like a sounding board, we’d love to hear from you.

Strategic Grit was born of the lessons (sometimes painful, sometimes joyful) we learned in 2020, a unique year in many ways. Some of these lessons we learned on our own, through our research and personal experiences, and some were learned through our work with clients. But the theme that stands out is this: Those best equipped to ride out tumultuous times are nimble, resilient, and forward-thinking. These are people and organizations with Strategic Grit: a resilience that is not random but well-planned, effective, and durable.

Strategic Grit, Round 2: Envisioning

By Jennifer Horn-Frasier and Holly Adams

April 2021

Strategic Grit was born of the lessons (sometimes painful, sometimes joyful) that we learned in 2020, a unique year in many ways. Some of these lessons we learned on our own, through our research and personal experiences, and some were learned through our work with clients. But the theme that stands out to us is this: Those best equipped to ride out tumultuous times are nimble, resilient, and forward-thinking. These are people and organizations with Strategic Grit: a resilience that is not random but well-planned, effective, and durable.

As we begin our next series of blog posts, we want to share Strategic Grit success stories. We’ll be sharing examples of real people who use Strategic Grit to get things done and move themselves and their businesses forward.

Holly: Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” The first step in developing Strategic Grit and using it as a force of good for yourself and your team is to define where you want to go. Together, we establish an end (product) goal and then develop sub (process) goals to help motivate and move us toward the end goal.

Where do we start? First, define success. It’s critical to tackle this seemingly simple step before we do anything else. But, too often, leaders, athletes, and team members kick off a project, season, or workweek without clearly defining what success looks like.

If you’re a student, your idea of success might be a minimum score of 510 on the MCAT (medical college admissions test). If you’re an athlete, your idea of success might be to place in the top 8 in your weight class at the state wrestling competition. You get my drift: the more specific, the better.

Executive coaching examples are more complex. Goals might include building self-confidence to win that coveted c-suite office, increasing virtual team member engagement, mending a fractured relationship with a critical colleague, or managing feelings of overwhelm and incompetence.

A favorite coaching example of mine is when I worked with a mid-level manager to develop interpersonal skills to match his high level of technical skills. Step 1 – Define success. In this situation, we used a clarifying question: What’s the gap between where you are now and where you want to be? His team rated his leadership skills a 5 on a scale of 1-10; he wanted a rating of 8 or higher.

Once we clearly defined his definition of success (a rating of 8 or higher from his team), we focused on what he needed to do to improve his ranking from a 5 to an 8 (end goal). From there, we established more minor (process) goals to make incremental strides toward the end goal.

For the manager, this meant:

  • Completing two work style assessments to increase his self-awareness
  • Soliciting feedback from his team about communication preferences and meeting efficiency
  • Engaging in a crucial conversation with a manager from another department upon which this manager’s team heavily depends for accurate inventory updates

Clearly defining success is simple and critical to developing Strategic Grit. And when success requires more than one person, it’s even more vital to ensure that everyone is clear about success. Jennifer has some great insights. Take it away!

Jennifer: One of my favorite things in the world is to ride a mountain bike in the woods. It’s also fun to introduce new people to the sport. One extremely practical piece of advice for new mountain bikers is to make sure you look where you want to go, not at that rock or tree root you’re trying to avoid. Why? We steer our bike in the direction we’re looking.

The same is true elsewhere in life: We move in the direction of our thoughts and conversations.

This is why it is crucial to imagine and define where we—our company, our nonprofit, our team, our project—want to go. And that’s why the first step in group strategizing is envisioning.

In Strategic Doing, groups begin with a “framing question,” which invites curiosity and enthusiasm for vividly picturing the desired future—the place everyone is focusing on. A team needs to wrestle with its framing question until it genuinely captures the essence of what they hope for in the future. This process of shaping the question can take a few days up to a few weeks.

Here are some examples of framing questions I’ve helped teams shape:

  • Imagine that by 2025, our school shines brightly in the region for providing valued opportunities not available elsewhere in the educational ecosystem to a diverse group of students. What does this look like?
  • What would it look like if our local live music scene included the performances, perspectives, and skills of women and men equally?
  • What if, by the end of 2021, residents viewed our community pantry as a key factor in fostering resilience and recovery from the pandemic. What would that look like?

Once you have the framing question, it’s time to paint a vivid picture, whether with words or images. The team that developed the last framing question in the list did just that: they spent time individually creating verbal descriptions and colorful drawings that pictured the community pantry at the heart of their community’s pandemic recovery.

Each person shared their vision, and then the team developed a collective, shared concept. Out of the sharing and discussion emerged an exciting new future that included a pantry that provided much more than food and was much more holistic in its approach to supporting those in need.

Once the team agreed on a shared vision of the future they intended to bring to life, they could start to build a plan and confidently work together to realize it. There was no doubt about what they were laboring to create.

Putting it together: Whether you are an individual on a solo journey or a member of an organization that’s looking to build a new future, the first step of your journey should be defining where you want to go. Create that clear picture of future success. Define the future vision you’ll work to bring to life. Then you’ll be in position to craft your plans for the rest of the journey.

If you wanted to develop new facets of your abilities, your role, your team, your organization, or your field, where would you begin? How would you start to create your definition of success? How would you create a shared vision of a new future reality?

Every journey requires the first step. What will be yours?

Strategic Grit: The Power of Experimentation + Discipline

Photo of authors Holly Adams and Jennifer Horn-Frasier

By Jennifer Horn-Frasier and Holly Adams

2020 was tough and the global consensus was that it would be a welcome thing to move on to 2021. But when the calendar turned to 2021, things were still tough.

Wait, what?!?

Okay, as it turns out, starting a new year doesn’t actually mean a whole lot except that you have to remember to write a different year on your checks. We closed our previous blog post with a quote from Angela Duckworth: “At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.”

Since starting a new year did not magically make things better, how can we—as organizations and as individuals—dig deep and find ways to make the best of this time? We believe that the complementary practices of thoughtful experimentation and discipline can sustain focus and forward momentum.

We’ll explain.

Jennifer: I often use the Strategic Doing methodology, which is a way for people and networks to form agile collaborations to address complex problems. In previous posts, I’ve talked about the Framing Question—used to vividly imagine the future to be created—and Asset Mapping—developing an inventory of the available skills, physical resources, networks/relationships, and capital, then brainstorming how they might be combined in ways to bring to life the imagined future.

But neither of these tools are worth anything if an organization does not do something with them. And that’s where experimentation and discipline come in.

The future is built step by step and day by day. Even when the future seems daunting, or when turning the calendar page does not make things better, it is always possible to take at least one step forward.

Here’s how: Choose an experiment to begin with. In Strategic Doing, we refer to these as Pathfinder Projects, moving the organization on the path toward the envisioned future. Chose an experiment that has good potential to move you in the desired direction and that you know to be doable. Most importantly, have everyone on your team identify an action they will personally take to carry out the experiment.

Next, develop a 30/30 discipline. This is where your team gathers every 30 days (or at some other interval appropriate to the experiment) and does two things: 1) Looks back at the past 30 days to review what each person did and the impact those actions had on the experiment, and 2) uses what was learned from the past 30 days to plan actions for the next 30 days.

Thoughtful Experimentation + Discipline = Momentum in the direction of the future your organization is working to bring to life.

Holly: Thanks, Jennifer. You’re right, the complementary practices of experimentation and discipline are powerful. I do something similar with my clients. Together, we come up with an action item that we know will move us closer to success. At our next meeting, we evaluate that action item’s effectiveness.

During the evaluation phase, we work on how we talk about “failures.” It’s important to keep a growth mindset, and my goal is for clients to see setbacks as learning opportunities and not crushing blows of negativity. We learn grit by repeatedly getting back up, persevering despite disappointment, and ultimately succeeding.

Clients who are perfectionists struggle with learning grit the most because they are too focused on finding that one “right” way to do something. When life or work don’t go according to their plan, they are stuck, feel overwhelmed, and are more likely to give up. To combat this tendency, it’s important to hold them accountable.

Many of my clients benefit from the use of a weekly accountability check-in to talk about 1) things that went well, 2) things that didn’t go as planned, and 3) action items for focusing their attention going forward. This simple method creates the encouragement some clients need to keep moving toward their ultimate goals and strengthens self-awareness so they tackle self-loathing and self-deprecating thoughts before they take root.

We hope our blog series has helped you with your own strategic grit. But we also want to acknowledge that this isn’t an overnight process. It takes time and energy to build strategic grit, and, often, it’s easier to just do the things we’re comfortable doing, the things we’ve always done.

The Stockdale Paradox is a concept that has emerged from research into the psychology of prisoners of war. The paradox is that prisoners of war who are most likely to survive and thrive after release are not the pure optimists; rather, they are the soldiers who balance optimism with reality. They keep faith that they will be released while accepting the extreme challenge of their situation and taking small actions to enhance their chances of survival and release.

The Vietnam veteran for whom the paradox is named, James Stockdale, said, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Strategic Grit is a similar balance: keeping your eye on your goals while staying engaged in the work of taking small steps forward every day, even—or especially—when the going gets tough.

Thank you so much for spending some time with us. If you decide you’d like a partner on your own strategic grit path, we’d be glad to talk with you. Here’s to making the most of 2021!

Jennifer and Holly

#StrategicGrit #StrategicDoing #PathfinderProject #3030 #Experimentation #Discipline

 About Jennifer:

Jennifer helps businesses, nonprofits, and community coalitions with strategic evolution: tackling complex problems, determining strategic direction, and taking action to create a new future. She is a Certified Strategic Doing Workshop Leader.

About Holly:

Holly is a trusted partner to individuals and teams, helping them forge and refine purposeful leadership and authentic collaboration to navigate both planned routes and unexpected detours successfully. She is a certified Human Resources Professional and Mental Toughness Trainer.

Turning Chaos into Insight

Did your expectations for 2020 crash and burn? Don’t throw the smoking heap of unrealized goals and planning out! There are treasures buried there, including lots of learning and new insights. Let us explain.

In our last Strategic Grit post (http://bluebirdskysolutions.com/insights/), we discussed creating a clear vision of the future you’re working toward with the help of a Framing Question and a Product Goal.

It isn’t enough to envision the future; it’s critical to take action. In 2020, you likely tried things you would never have had circumstances not twisted your arm (COVID, Derecho storm, lost clients, etc.). As you head into 2021, now is a great time to reflect on the changes you created—or that were imposed on you—to determine what to carry forward and what to leave behind in that hot-mess pile we talked about earlier.

Here are some ideas for finding the keepers.

Jennifer: I often use the Strategic Doing (https://strategicdoing.net/) methodology to guide organizations through planning and action steps to create a new future. One step in the process is to uncover the available assets, the building materials on hand that can be used to craft the envisioned future. These assets can be human skills, physical resources readily accessible to team members, networks and relationships, and, of course, capital.

If you’re so inclined, grab a pen or pencil and jot down all available assets relevant to your 2021 vision. You can organize them into the four categories I mentioned above: Skills; Physical Resources; Networks and Relationships; and Capital.

Once you’ve identified the assets available for the work at hand, you can imagine different ways to combine and use them to move toward your envisioned future. This is, in essence, what we all did in 2020: As the world shifted beneath our feet, we made quick judgments and had flashes of inspiration about how to use what we had on hand to respond to the unexpected. However, the real power is in creating time and space to intentionally do this reimagining and innovating in advance, not just in real-time.

Reflect for a moment on what you’ve done in 2020—and on the future vision you’re working to bring to life. Then ask What worked? Is it sustainable? What didn’t work? Is there something else we should try, given what we’ve learned?

Now randomly choose two assets from your list and brainstorm how they might be used to service your vision for 2021. Once you’ve run out of juice with these two assets, randomly choose two more and try again. You can also try this thought experiment backward: Start with the vision of the future you want to create by the end of 2021 and see what assets on your list could help you accomplish the vision.

This is a great way to begin stitching together a strategy for moving forward in 2021. We’ll talk more about this in our next Strategic Grit post.

Holly: It would be easy, understandable even due to pandemic fatigue and busy holiday schedules, to just coast into 2021 without really thinking much about business goals. Some leaders plan to wait for a vaccine or fly under the radar until someone else decides what 2021 can look like. But please don’t fall into the trap of immobility. Now is the perfect time to begin the grit-building process, even if you can only find a couple of minutes!

A key component in the Strategic Grit process is focusing on the solution, not getting sidelined by smoldering heaps of regrets. Focusing on the solution means asking yourself, what’s the one thing you can do today to take a step closer to a positive outcome? You could also think about what worked in 2020. As Jennifer mentioned, your answer may or may not be sustainable moving forward, but documenting the answer is essential.

Now think about what didn’t work. This list might be long given the challenges of 2020, so just consider your top 3-5 misfires or missteps. Jot them down. This list of what worked and what didn’t in 2020 represents, in an elementary form, your framework for pursuing and reaching your vision in 2021.

Now consider what’s next. What’s one thing you want to do or try to get closer to your vision/product goal? Start big and keep drilling down to actionable items. What’s one thing you want to try next week/next month/next quarter? Ideally, what’s the one thing you can do TODAY?

Here’s an example of what the framework looks like:

Individual

ž Goal: increase connection to virtual team members

ž What worked: established team and individual check-ins; themed/fun topics

žWhat didn’t work: length of the regular check meetings (too long); not enough structure/lack of a plan

ž What’s next: shorten meetings; employee drives part of the process by checking in regarding hits and misses for the current week and outlining the focus for the following week; shared coordination (employee and manager) for developing themed/fun virtual calls.

This is how you can begin to experiment with data collected from your own experiences in 2020 and use it to make powerful adjustments in 2021.

Jennifer and Holly: We’d love to hear about your asset “keepers” list or how you used the framework provided to take action toward your goals. Let us know!

We appreciate and want to share the following reminder from Angela Duckworth in her book, Grit.

From the very beginning to the very end, it is inestimably important to learn to keep going when things are difficult, even when we have doubts. At various points, in big ways and small, we get knocked down. If we stay down, grit loses. If we get up, grit prevails.

In our next blog post, we will continue to share ways to build confidence to forge ahead. In the meantime, you can reach us at jennifer@bluebirdskysolutions.com or holly@hollyadamsconsulting.com with your questions and comments.

Thank you for spending a bit of time with us!

Jennifer and Holly

 About Jennifer:

Jennifer helps businesses, nonprofits, and community coalitions with evolution management: tackling complex problems, determining strategic direction, and taking action to create a new future. She is a Certified Strategic Doing Workshop Leader.

About Holly:

Holly is a trusted partner to individuals and teams, helping them forge and refine purposeful leadership and authentic collaboration to navigate both planned routes and unexpected detours successfully. She is a certified Human Resources Professional and Mental Toughness Trainer.

Strategic Grit: Are you ready to not just plan but DO?

In our introductory Strategic Grit blog post we promised a springboard for clarifying the future you want to create and bringing it to life. Through our Strategic Grit blog collaboration, we’ll share insights about both a get-it-done mindset AND plans of action for success. We’ll provide examples from our methods that allow for unexpected change, which makes them adaptable and valuable for chaotic times such as these.

So, if you are looking forward to 2021 and thinking How do we even start to plan for all these unknowns?!?, read on for some practical ideas.

Jennifer: It would be easy to get hung up on the long list of external factors over which you have no control. But focusing on the obstacles will never get you to where you want to go. The key is to clearly envision the future you do want, then to focus on what you can do to get there.

So: Start by taking time to vividly imagine and articulate the future you want to create. This is a critical step in making real change happen.

One methodology I use with organizations and coalitions is Strategic Doing™, an agile approach to collaboratively tackling complex problems. At the heart of Strategic Doing is what we call the Framing Question. This is a tool that helps people contemplate and picture the desired future, that invites curiosity and enthusiasm, that serves as a beacon of light shining through the darkness of the unknown.

An example of a Framing Question is this: Imagine that, in December 2021, our organization is thriving. What would that look like?

Of course, this example is a generic question; effective real-world Framing Questions are compelling and unique to the circumstances. But the answers to the Framing Question establish a vision of success. Once we are able to vividly imagine our future, the Framing Question challenges us to imagine how we can make it reality.

THIS is where action and change begin. Now the task is to rough out the path to that future reality. What are the actions needed to move toward that future vision? And how will each person do their part?

Here’s where the grit comes in.

Holly: Similar to Jennifer’s Framing Question, I always start my consulting work in Mental Toughness with a basic inquiry to clarify the end goal, what I call the Product Goal. Here are some questions I ask when trying to define the Product Goal:

  • What does success look like to you?
  • If you have achieved this goal, what is the result?
  • What does your ideal life look like 6 months from now?

(These questions can be applied to an individual, a team, or an organization.)

Once we’ve explored the answers to these questions, we talk about the current state of activity to understand the gap between our current reality and our ideal reality. We often discuss why we are naturally motivated to stay in our comfort zones, even when we know there are good reasons for change. We work together to identify the actions that will generate the most opportunity for growth and success, and we examine ways to increase self-awareness, build trust among team members and supervisors, establish accountability, and boost optimism.

Mentally tough and gritty individuals increase the likelihood of success by taking a long-term goal (a Product Goal) and chunking it into smaller, attainable goals (Process Goals). Successful people understand the difference between a goal and a plan. A goal remains relatively fixed, but the plan can and should be flexible. Regular check-ins allow for tweaks to our plan and changes in behavior—which keep us focused on our Product Goal.

A sailor, for example, never sails his or her boat directly from point A to point B. Factors such as wind and water conditions must be considered, and so the good sailor adjusts his or her route at regular intervals, otherwise the wind or currents can take them off course and potentially into real danger.

Jennifer and Holly: We would love to hear from you about your own process for clarifying your future vision and ensuring success. What might your organization use as a Framing Question to navigate 2021? What goals are you setting for yourself or your team in 2021 and how will you support achieving them?

In our next blog post we will take a deeper dive into bringing your future vision to life. In the meantime, you can reach us at jennifer@bluebirdskysolutions.com or holly@hollyadamsconsulting.com with your questions and comments.

We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for spending a bit of time with us!

Jennifer and Holly

About Jennifer:
Jennifer helps businesses, nonprofits, and community coalitions with evolution management: tackling complex problems, determining strategic direction, and taking action to create a new future. She is a Certified Strategic Doing Workshop Leader.

About Holly:
Holly is a trusted partner to individuals and teams, helping them forge and refine purposeful leadership and authentic collaboration to successfully navigate both planned routes and unexpected detours. She is a certified Human Resources Professional and Mental Toughness Trainer.

Introducing: Strategic Grit

Hello! We’re Jennifer Horn-Frasier and Holly Adams, two consultants from the Midwest who use strategy and grit to help individuals, teams, and organizations create a clear vision of the success they seek, and then make it happen.

Strategic Grit is born of the lessons we’ve learned in 2020, as well as the lessons that our clients have learned. As the Coronavirus has taken a tighter hold of our nation and its economy, it’s become clear to us that those best equipped to ride out tumultuous times are those who possess certain qualities: They are nimble, and they are resilient.

And that’s when we came up with Strategic Grit: A resilience that is not random, but well-planned, effective, and durable.

Our goal is to share what we’ve learned from helping people become more strategic and more resilient, and how you too can use a more strategic and resilient mindset to reach your goals.

More specifically, Jennifer will share how she uses a decision-making framework to help organizations create a long-term vision that everyone understands and embraces. Holly will get into the nitty-gritty (no pun intended!) of how to effectively identify and articulate goals, incorporate accountability, and continually reevaluate progress.

We will use real client stories to illustrate how to make Strategic Grit happen, and we’ll incorporate your feedback and questions into each and every blog. We want this to be a conversation, not a long-winded lecture.

We think that Strategic Grit will help you and your team feel emboldened to respond to change, navigate upheaval, and keep moving forward, and we can’t wait to get started!

We’ll post our next blog here in about a month. Until then, if you have something you’d like to share with us, you can reach us at holly@hollyadamsconsulting.com or jennifer@bluebirdskysolutions.com.

Thank you for spending a bit of time with us! More soon!

Jennifer and Holly

About Jennifer: 

Jennifer helps businesses, nonprofits, and community coalitions with evolution management: tackling complex problems, determining strategic direction, and taking action to create a new future. She is a Certified Strategic Doing Workshop Leader.

About Holly: 

Holly is a trusted partner to individuals and teams, helping them forge and refine purposeful leadership and authentic collaboration to successfully navigate both planned routes and unexpected detours. She is a certified Human Resources Professional and Mental Toughness Trainer.