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A Blog by Art Dykstra


From My Pad to Yours is about leadership and other topics, and is written by Art Dykstra, the CEO of Trinity Services, Inc.

Discretionary Effort

by Art Dykstra | Aug 23, 2017

Among the authors held in wide esteem at Trinity is Aubrey Daniels. In his book, Measure of a Leader, he defines discretionary effort.

Discretionary effort is that level of effort that people could give if they wanted to–but which is beyond what is required. Discretionary effort is what is possible.

Simply said, it is doing what we are doing because we want to. It’s what some people refer to as “going beyond the call of duty.” Daniels states that it is the most vital indicator of positive leadership. People do what they can do because they want to–they are willing.

Discretionary effort is most abundant when people are engaged and find meaning in their employment. Leaders can inspire this kind of effort by communicating a vision of what could be accomplished in such a way that it resonates with employees. When they “catch” the vision, they are willing to expend the extra time and energy required to help achieve the goal. They feel needed, included.

Wise leaders also know that discretionary effort is the product of positive reinforcement, not punishment. They make sure that employees who make sacrifices are acknowledged and appreciated individually in ways that ensure that each one feels valued. This requires that leaders know what types of reinforcement convey appreciation most effectively to each employee. Gary Chapman and Paul White explore a variety of reinforcement methods that leaders can use in The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

The practice of discretionary effort is one of the defining characteristics of people who work beyond their job descriptions. They do things before being asked. They take on assignments or tasks without inquiring, “What will you give me if I do that?” Though acknowledging an individual’s efforts help create an environment that nurtures discretionary effort, rewards aren’t a motivation. These employees participate in those actions and activities because they want to–they feel like doing them and feel glad after accomplishing the tasks. As a result, when management discovers the discretionary act, the person involved is often embarrassed.

I believe that discretionary effort is a function of our personal values and how we feel about ourselves and others. Therefore, it occurs in our interactions with the persons served, their families, our colleagues, our guests and visitors.

NOTE: This is Part 4 of a 10-part series on Trinity's Core Values.
To read Part 1 on Servant Leadership, click here.
To read Part 2 on Serving and Supporting, click here.
​To read Part 3 on Honest and Open Communication, click here.

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