Discretionary Effort: going the extra mile at work!

I was pondering this topic while observing my new team working.  It’s an interesting concept and one that I need to explore further as I begin the somewhat daunting task of pulling a group of people together, and forming a self-managing, & high performing team.

To give you all a brief overview I am now into week 6 of my new role, leading a team of 15 individuals – aged between 21 and 52. I am the 3rd ‘Head of Department’ in 12 months, and started where my team sit just 6 months ago.

Now I did start from the bottom (so to speak) and some might say have risen to the top of the pile quite quickly – however I did have experience in managing corporate bank branches, and when the outgoing Head departed before lunch one Monday morning, I was asked if I was ready to step back into a management role?

The advantage of having done the ‘base’ role and been relatively successful at it, (enough so that I was promoted into a slightly more senior role after a few months), is that I have an understanding of not only the tasks within the role, but the ‘pain points’ for the team  members.

For instance, that perception of not being appreciated by the wider business;  one of the first team meetings I ran a ‘Traffic Light’ discussion around “with the client at the centre ” what could we/should we ‘Stop’, ‘Start’ & ‘Continue’.  It was an interesting exercise for me to hear what the team was feeling and to start my understanding of ‘their big picture’.

Stop

Traffic Light
Traffic Light – Stop, Continue & Start
  1. Coming in early and staying late to get the job done
  2. Splitting the whole team for team meetings
  3. Being statistics driven

Continue

  1. Training sessions
  2. Reviewing our client calls & giving us feedback
  3. Engaging with the client & understanding what they need
  4. Being supportive of each other

Start

  1. Giving team more credit – we are the backbone of the business
  2. Task rotation
  3. More communication between department teams

These are a few of the ideas that the team came up with that are amongst a whole lot of takeaways for me as the new Head of Department, and certainly more than enough feedback to filter, take onboard and look at what I can realistically impact in the short-term.

But back to my first thoughts on this concept of discretionary effort. What does this actually  mean?

And did I get some clues from this Traffic Light session of how to get this happening?

It is the level of effort people choose to exert in service to their colleagues or clients at work – or not! Employees are paid for the fundamental tasks that he or she has been hired to do – the discretionary effort is the level of effort people could give if they wanted to above and beyond the basic requirements of the job.

This month is known as the busiest period of the financial year for the business I am in – it is the time in which we communicate with every client, either by email or by post. Communication that creates a lot of inbound calls and emails full of questions, requests and more questions!

With volumes so high, the pressure has been on. Some of the team have responded by offering to work a bit later, or come in a bit earlier. I have noticed a couple taking a shorter lunch breaks, and another asking if there was anything else she could do to help out the team.  Some individuals have just got on with the basic tasks, have become less communicative, taken days off ‘sick’ and been generally disengaged.

I read that you can’t pay people enough to remember to go the extra mile but you can produce a work environment in which your employees will choose to go above and beyond themselves.

I wonder how much the age of an employee plays a role with this subject of discretionary effort? – without going into the depths of research right now, it is known that the three generations of X, Y and Boomers are fundamentally different in how they approach the workplace. (Best not get me started on this subject – 3 children all raised in the same house, 10 years apart in age, all with very different work ethics and expectations of what work ‘should’ be like!)

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Dream job? No but opportunity knocked & I answered!

Opportunity: a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something – a chance for employment or promotion.

Back in January I wrote a blog I named: An Update – Job Hunting.  I want to fill you in on what’s been happening since I secured that job, and actually it is part of the reason I have not been ‘blogging’ so much recently.

Six months ago I secured a role after a tough period of job hunting  – and to be fair – it was a role that I accepted with not enough enthusiasm but with plenty of gratitude. It wasn’t my dream job to be honest it was a starting point.

I found the work interesting initially, however it wasn’t too long before it became repetitive. I persevered and thought if I could just push through until the end of the year I’d look for another job then.  About 3 months after starting an email came around asking if there was anyone interested in an opportunity to step into another role. I immediately put my hand up and began a 4-week trial to test my ability to do this new role.

I tackled this new challenge in the same way as before – I put my head down, and quickly learnt what was expected and set about delivering it. I was offered the role on a permanent basis and after starting in early December I was promoted on the 1st April.

Continue reading “Dream job? No but opportunity knocked & I answered!”

External link to The Extra Income Project – My journey from massive debt to financial freedom.

The Extra Income Project – My journey from massive debt to financial freedom.

My journey from massive debt to financial freedom – I started following this man’s blog after reading the first post. What a story – I’m excited for his journey out of the financial mess his family situation created…check it out. … Continue reading The Extra Income Project – My journey from massive debt to financial freedom.

An Update – Job Hunting.

Last month I secured a new job! But not without the challenge of dealing with those recruitment ‘specialists’. As I described in my first commentary job hunting is hard enough without the lack of any response whatsoever. And those impersonal automated declines are just annoying. You do start to feel a little down and it is difficult to keep going with a positive spin on the whole process. However, I persevered and with a little tweeking of that cover letter I actually got in front of a recruitment specialist. Or thats what I thought did the trick! What followed was an interesting turn of events…let me tell you more. Quite … Continue reading An Update – Job Hunting.