Discretionary Effort

Discretionary Effort – that extra effort we give to people, projects and tasks after our required effort has been given. Good leaders are able to tap into other’s discretionary effort. Every job requires a certain amount of effort to complete. Most of us will only give that required amount of effort to complete this job (e.g. – 8 hours of work for our boss each day). This is the required duty, the expected performance, and often times the bare minimum. Our total capacity for effort is usually larger than this “expected” effort. We will give this remaining effort to the people or things that captivate our passions… our loved ones, our hobbies, our interests. Have you ever noticed how you can feel very tired doing a job that that you don’t enjoy, but minutes later when you’re doing something else that’s interesting, fun, engaging you’re suddenly energized. I think of my 8 year old daughter, Audrey. She’s a high energy kid most of her waking hours. However, when it’s time to clean her room, make her bed, pick up her backpack she’s suddenly exhausted and kicks into slow motion whining as she goes. This is exactly what we are like (although we try to hide it better than my 8 year old). Good leaders are able to capitalize on people’s passions. They’re able to align people into what the love to do. They are also able to “sell” their ideas in a way that people want to do it. And, most important, they themselves are the kind of people that others really want to please and support. Even if they don’t enjoy the task, people will give some of their discretionary effort to leaders they respect and enjoy working for.


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