You and I both control one big thing in our daily lives. That ‘thing’ is the effort we choose to spend. As managers and leaders, we want to get more effort from our team.
We all choose what level of effort is used, whether it is effort at work, at home, in the gym, on the golf course, fishing, playing sports, or building relationships,
The various levels of effort we spend depend usually on what we think is required. How many of us get behind the wheel of our cars and miraculously arrive at our destinations with little if any thought or conscious effort to do so? As scary as that thought may be, it is true.
There are certain things we do every day that receive the minimum effort required. Other things we feel more effort is needed so we ‘work a little harder.’
The same is true with everything we do at work. Whatever the job requires, you make intentional or unintentional choices about applying the best level of effort.
Learning about Discretionary Effort
Going the extra mile is called discretionary effort. You voluntarily choose how much extra you give.
For those of you who are gym rats, you know about discretionary effort. As an example, it’s the extra rep at the end of a long set. It’s the extra plate on the weight stack. You choose to try more, applying all your remaining strength to get it achieved.
The Leaders and Managers Opportunity
As managers and leaders of business, how can you inspire your people to give that little bit extra? Just like a good sports coach gets a little more out of his athletes, you too can become the coach your people need so they are willing to give that discretionary effort too.
Here are five ways you can up your game as a leader.
First, answer their questions. Every employee arrives at work with basic questions. They need these questions resolved in order to fully apply themselves to the work. Giving the ‘extra’ effort requires all the questions are answered completely.
I’m not talking about obvious questions, but sometimes intangible ones. For instance, here’s the list of core questions employees ask:
- Do I even want to be here? The people question.
- Do I believe in the purpose for this team? The why question.
- Do I believe in the plan we have to execute our roles?
- What is the practice or process? Do the tools, systems, and procedures work?
- Will my performance be recognized?
- What is the payoff? Not just monetary, but the sense of accomplishment.
If you can work with your team to have critical questions like these answered affirmatively, then you will see the increase in discretionary effort employees use.
Next, you need to be trustworthy. Leaders must work to create an environment of trust. It starts at the manager’s desk. You cannot dictate nor demand trust from your team if you are not trustworthy yourself.
The way you build trust for yourself involves these key things:
- Be real, don’t fake it
- Stand by your word
- Be relatable, work to connect with your team, not as friends, but as co-workers
More Ways to Get More for Managers and Leaders
The next opportunity involves creating a vision. Because your people wonder about the purpose of the team (see above), you have to be the one creating the vision. Too many managers rely on the bigger picture statement from above about purpose and vision.
NO! If you got put in a manager’s seat, YOU need to create your own vision for what the team can and should be doing. YOU need to define what it means to win. It is YOUR job to paint that picture for your team.
After you can share the proper vision for your team, your employees will find ways to help make it happen. Everyone wants a purpose. Great Leaders inspire that.
Next, provide an accountability framework. As small children, we all want to know where the boundaries are. An absence of boundaries actually creates insecurity.
It happens at work too. That is to say, if your hiring process is reasonably effective (not perfect but good enough), the people you hired will want to do the right thing. However, if you fail to show them that, they get unsettled, confused. Just like small children they may act out. If you have that happening, it’s your fault.
Build the right structure for monitoring, evaluating, recognizing good performance, and helping those who are falling behind.
Inspect what you expect.Anonymous
I use and teach a process known as the Big 5. It’s a beautifully simple way to have employees get on the same page. It provides you with coaching moments to help guide your people. For more on the Big 5 method click here.
Lastly, have some fun. Yes, that may sound weird. But people respond better if the effort they choose to spend gets recognized. There is no better way to recognize good performance than celebrating your wins.
Above all, use the milestones in a project to have small celebrations of victory for achieving that. In addition, if you pulled a series of all-nighters getting a project out the door, celebrate!
Don’t lose an opportunity to have fun with the good work people are delivering.
There you have it
Five ways to inspire your team to choose to spend discretionary effort at work. By following these ideas, you too can get more from your team while improving team trust and developing an environment of rewarding experience for your people.
How great would it be to have employees that honestly say “I love working here?” This is how you can do it.
If you’re still not clear on exactly how you too can get more from your team, give me a call. We’ll explore your exact situation in more detail.