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“Discretionary Effort”
Written by Steve Reed

Working hard. Giving extra effort. Solving problems. Taking ownership. Contributing bright ideas with their intellectual capital. Does this sound like your employees?

What is the key to making your business go? What makes your organization successful? There are a lot of factors integral to the operation and success of any business. For most businesses, certain key functions and areas must operate efficiently and effectively. Areas such as sales and marketing, strategic or business planning, internal communications, public relations, and financial management are all critical functions for most businesses. A strong consumer demand for an organization’s products or services is also important. Admittedly, there are other factors that can contribute to the success of an organization - like timing and lady luck. However, in most cases organizational success is a result of the efforts of the organization’s workforce – the employees.

Furthermore, the success or failure of most organizations can be categorized into two areas: employee productivity and employee performance. Think about it. These two factors are pivotal to the success of most any organization. In today’s competitive world, the productivity and performance of the workforce, along with their ability and willingness to be creative and innovative is everything. It is important to understand that employees are at choice to give their organization their very best, or something less, everyday they come to work.

In most organizations there is no customer service provided, no work performed, no mission attained, no revenue produced, nor profit generated without the work of the employees. In today’s competitive business world, organizational failure or success can almost always be attributed to the leadership of factors directly associated with the workforce: hard work, extra effort, problem-solving, and willingness to take “ownership” and contribute their “intellectual capital”. So how does an organization and its leadership create a working environment for its workforce to produce and perform?

Every employee in every organization comes to work each day and makes a simple yet profound decision that has unparalleled impact on the organization and its success. This profound decision that each employee makes each time he comes to work is this: “How hard am I going to work today?” And this decision that each employee makes at the beginning of each work shift is constantly changed or reaffirmed throughout his work day. Should I immediately get to work after clocking in or do a little “chit-chatting” first with my colleagues? Should I answer the telephone or just let voice mail answer it? Should I finish this work assignment on-time or work harder and get it done ahead of time? Should I mention my cost-saving idea to my supervisor? Should I show my support for the new company employee policy that was recently implemented? Should I double-check my completed work for possible mistakes, or just send it on?

Employee discretionary effort is all about the choice each employee has for giving his best, or just the “minimum acceptable standard”; however, the difference, in most cases, is more than you probably imagine. A basic yet most critical element of leadership is creating the conditions that optimize employee productivity and performance. It can make all the difference in the success of any organization. It impacts everything. And in today’s world, those leaders who are successful at tapping into employee discretionary effort are, well . . . successful. As a leader, are you able to engage the hearts and minds of your workforce, and tap into the discretionary effort of your employees? Your overall leadership performance, the leadership legacy you are creating, and the overall success of your organization depend on it.

Please send comments or questions about this article to Steve Reed at sreed@creatinglegaciesllc.com.

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