Is Discretionary Energy a Key to Your Business Success?

Bob Wiesner | March 6, 2017

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Leaders and team members regularly enlist the help of colleagues.  Or should I say expect the help of colleagues.  Yet often, they don’t get the support they anticipated.

This will lead to common complaints: The other guy isn’t pulling their weight.  Or they don’t seem to care.  Or they’re just not competent enough.

I think it’s often something else: The other guy hasn’t been convinced – by you – to give you his discretionary energy.

This article in HBR points this out as one of three obstacles to productivity.

1. Most employees want to be productive, but the organization too often gets in their way.

2. The company has a few talented people who can have a disproportionate impact on strategy execution and performance, but these “difference makers” are too often put in roles that limit their effectiveness.

3. People have huge amounts of discretionary energy that they could devote to their work, but many are not sufficiently inspired to do so.

I’m convinced that the area of discretionary energy, or effort, is critical.  All of us have essential tasks we have to do within our job requirements.  No discretion required.  We do these things because they are essential to the fulfillment of our roles.

But we all have more to offer.   And we have lots of options how to use that extra energy. We can apply it to any number of opportunities at work.  Or we can take that energy outside and engage in activities that give us work/life balance.

So, if a leader or team needs the discretionary energy of a colleague, it comes down to this – relationship, trust, purpose, and persuasion.

We won’t do something for you that will require our discretionary energy only because you ask us to.  We’ll do it because we trust you.  We’ll do it because you convinced us it fits our vision of who we are and what we want to accomplish.  We’ll do it because you’ve inspired us to overcome a challenge or achieve a desired stretch outcome.

Many people come to us with requests.  And that includes requests from outside work.  We will accept the ones that meet our goals from people whom we trust.

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