Posted by: Rael Kalley | December 3, 2016

382. Here is the key.

Last week we touched briefly on the practice of discretionary effort.

Indeed, if there is a true magical secret sauce to instantly transform ordinary organizations into extraordinary companies it is the massively quantifiable effect brought about by an boost in discretionary effort.

The magical ingredient in the secret sauce is the word discretionary. Discretionary effort cannot be mandated or directed. It can be neither encouraged nor requested.

Discretionary effort is that enchanted result that comes about from extraordinary, above and beyond effort and contributions made by employees and performed with absolutely no expectation of reward and nor any fear of reprisal or recrimination for non-delivery.

In other words, discretionary effort is performed for one reason and only one reason; the person doing this extra work is doing so because they want to. Period.

The rewards for discretionary effort are purely internal; pride, satisfaction, perfectionism and attainment of personal goals are but a few of the rewards offered to those who gleefully devote themselves to its delivery.

Last week we talked about people coming to work either willingly or grudgingly. We agreed that both result from the (real or imagined) way in which people believe themselves to be treated and valued in the workplace.

And few would argue that discretionary effort is a by-product of the way employees feel about the workplace environment, the quality and value of the work they do, how they are treated and the degree of fulfilment they derive from their work.

Which is why it truly is the secret sauce in the recipe for greatness.

The dictionary defines secret as:

  1. done, made, or conducted without the knowledge of others: secret negotiations
  2. kept from the knowledge of any but the initiated or privileged: a secret password.

And it remains, surprisingly, as much a secret in 2016 as it has been for decades and perhaps even for centuries.

So in the interests of bringing enlightenment to the 21st century, I’m going to blow the lid off this clandestine recipe and reveal a few of its long-held mystery ingredients.

You see, discretionary effort is nothing more than a consequence. As you know, a consequence is simply the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier: an act or instance of following something as an effect, result, or outcome.

Years of conducting employee engagement surveys, retention and exit interviews, focus groups and individual discussions have revealed those mysterious ingredients that form the recipe for discretionary effort.

Here are a few of the magic ingredients people have shared with me which have contributed to their desire to deliver above-and-beyond effort.

  • A feeling that their work is important.
  • A feeling that their work is fulfilling.
  • A feeing that their voice is heard.
  • Finding fulfillment in their work.
  • A sense of playing a vital role in something bigger than themselves.
  • An environment they look forward to coming to each day.
  • Being treated with respect regardless of the circumstances.
  • Hearing the words “please” and “thank you.”
  • Having a boss, manager or leader who has their back.
  • Having a boss, manager or leader who is never publicly critical of their efforts.
  • Having a boss, manager or leader who treats all as equals.
  • Having a boss, manager or leader who seeks opportunities for heaping praise when it is deserved and provides constructive, helpful feedback when it is deserved.
  • Never being yelled at nor insulted, intimidated or humiliated.
  • Feeling appreciated.

This is by no means a complete ingredient list for discretionary effort. It is however, the basis upon which a great organization can be built. Removing even one of these ingredients will weaken the organization’s footing and, as we all know, a structure is only as strong as the foundation upon which it rests.

This is the time of year when, for many, our thoughts turn to New Years resolutions. If you are a manager/leader planning on introducing new policies and/or implementing new strategies in 2017, then please, before doing so, take the time to ensure you are doing everything you can to promote an environment where discretionary effort is the norm.

You’ll be so glad you did.

Till we read again.


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