Your People Are Our Business

Thirsty Thursdays: Discretionary Effort

Thirsty Thursdays: Discretionary Effort

What is Discretionary Effort?

Discretionary Effort is any effort an employee makes in their job above the minimum threshold.  It represents the performance level above just Meeting Requirements.  It is usually accompanied by some intrinsic motivation, be it just personal work ethic all the way to being a highly-engaged employee.  Often it includes outward manifestations of positive behaviors.  Despite what many of us may want to believe, Discretionary Effort is 100% voluntary.  There can be many underlying causes of organizations failing to maximize the discretionary effort of their employees.  Below we’ll explore three possibilities…

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CULTURE: A Culture centered around a lack of standards encourages staff to fly below the radar.  When leadership pushes for  outcomes instead of the desired behaviors and good practices to get work done employees have nothing to center on.  Variability in standards and inconsistent work products yield a mercenary mentality…just get that one objective accomplished no matter how you do it.  Those who succeed often got lucky and when they’re rewarded no one has a clue how to replicate that success.

TRUST:  I’ll paraphrase a great Steve Jobs quote…”We hire the really smart people to tell US what to do.”  No company hires incompetent dummies.  If you’re really hiring smart people establish the goals, set the standard methods and get out of their way!  Leaders that micromanage sow doubt and suspicion because hawking over someone looks a lot like mistrust.  When an employee feels like you don’t trust them, the favor is returned almost instantly.  It’s just human nature.  Can you really trust someone who doesn’t trust you?

CHAOS: Chaos mislabeled as “Change,” communicated as “a good thing,” but no one can give a convincing answer when asked “Why?” is dangerous.  Constant change and inconsistent standards can be tactics of weak leaders.  Allowing goals and measures to exist too long means those in charge might actually be held accountable.  Constantly moving goal posts lets them dodge results and hide behind a new set of metrics that “need some time to develop.”  This is one way companies often miss targets year after year, but never take action against those in charge.

How can you maximize your team's Discretionary Effort?

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Genuine care and appreciation for everyone you work with is the foundation.  In this self-absorbed, digital age it’s really easy to try to lead from behind a screen.  It won’t work.  Ever.  Get up, get out and spend face time with your staff.  Show you care by learning a little about them.  No agenda.  No objective.  If you initiate every interaction with a request for a status update you'll condition your team to brace themselves every time you appear. 

Maintain a firm and steady character.  When things are going bad for you, are you shielding your staff from it?  They have their own challenges and don’t need yours on top.  When things are going bad for them, can you recognize it and offer to help?  Regardless of good or bad times it’s critical you’re the steady, consistent leader they can count on year in and year out.

Have you defined a shared sense of purpose for you and your team?  Leading a team isn’t a casual Sunday drive where you can wander around for enjoyment.  Leading others is an honor and privilege and you have a personal obligation to lead them towards growth, professional fulfillment and the goals you establish as a team.  If your team feels like you’re just rambling around without direction it won’t be long before they look to others for purpose and direction.

Thirsty Thursdays are about our collective thirst for learning and knowledge.  It’s not about Beer:30 [although HR4ALL is all for that, too!]  We hope this weekly nugget of knowledge opens your mind and gives you a reason to pause and think differently.    Have a great weekend everyone! 

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