Want Discretionary Effort? 10 Things to Avoid in the New Year

By Aubrey Daniels

It’s that time of year when we are inundated with what we should do to start the new year off right. I would be remiss if I didn’t offer advice of my own; the only difference is these are things we should avoid all year round and are essential if you want to earn discretionary effort.

With every January comes promises made to change behaviors, break bad habits and start doing things differently. No matter how good our intentions, real change will not happen without considering consequences and behavior.

What we say and do and what happens as a result should be the focus if you want to earn discretionary performance from others. Often we say things off the cuff; things that are not meant to be discouraging, but in effect punish behavior and minimize the opportunity for others to want to give more.

If you want to be an effective leader, avoid these 10 statements: (These are actual comments that employees say supervisors or managers have said.)

  1. “You did a great job, BUT …”
  2. “That’s what you are paid for.”
  3. “We tried that and it didn’t work.”
  4. “We have enough ideas.”
  5. “I don’t just want ideas. I want good ideas.”
  6. “You are not paid to think.”
  7. “Just do what I tell you.”
  8. “I have a better idea.”
  9. “I don’t have time to talk about that.”
  10. “When you come in tomorrow, leave your brain in your car.”

While the reason to avoid some statements is more obvious than others, all have the potential for squashing creativity and idea sharing, an important piece to the discretionary effort puzzle.

Instead, you should focus on statements that reinforce the behavior you want.

Consider instead statements that engage others to talk about how they have done something or why they think a new way is better. Just taking the time to listen is a positive reinforcer to most employees.

When you take time to listen and show that you appreciate what others offer, even if you don’t act on it, you will get more positive behavior and in the end more discretionary effort from those around you.

Reprinted from Talent Management Magazine

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