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Release The Discretionary Energy In Your Employees
by Rick Johnson
May 17, 2006

Release The Discretionary Energy In Your Employees

How Do You Release Discretionary Energy in Your Employees? ------ What is discretionary energy? Discretionary energy is the energy an employee uses when going above and beyond the call of duty to complete a task or get the job done. Every employee has discretionary energy. The amount of energy released and employed at work depends on their attitude, how well they enjoy being at work, how they are treated and how they feel about the company.

Discretionary energy can be the difference between doing what is expected and performing in an outstanding manner. Consequently, our people skills and leadership skills play a paramount role in determining whether employees give freely of their discretionary energy. Does that mean that we must let the inmates run the asylum and do whatever they want to make them happy? Of course not. But, it does mean that we must utilize effective leadership skills in dealing with issues, problems and just day to day training, coaching and mentoring.

Here’s an example;

Telling a person what he is doing wrong is not specific enough.

Eliminating undesirable behavior without providing a new substitute pattern leaves the worker open to learn another undesirable set of responses and will encourage him to withhold his discretionary energy. He may even become demotivated or resentful. It is better to comment on improvement in performance than to comment on the employee’s failure to meet goals.

This can be accomplished by:


Thought Provoker:

You want every employee to release their discretionary energy at work to improve their individual performance and as a result improve company performance. The last thing you want is for an employee to do exactly what you tell them to do. Individual initiative is the fuel of competitive advantage.

Competitive advantage creates profit.

Thought Provoker:

Doing annual performance reviews without regular performance feedback so the employee understands his strengths and what he needs to do to become more effective is just not acceptable if you are an effective leader.

To see how this principle is applied to coaching, assume you were on a ride-a-long with a salesman and you just concluded a sales call. You observed the salesman neglected to ask for the order when making a closing statement. If in this critique you mention to the salesman that he did not use the skill correctly you would, in fact, be punishing the salesman.

A much better approach would be to use the concept of self-feedback. In other words, allow the salesman to self-critique the use of his skills. In the above example, assume the salesman used the supporting skill correctly. You would apply a positive reinforcement technique. Next, ask the salesman to repeat his closing statement as best he can recall.

You might say, “Can you remember the closing statement you made? I wonder if you could repeat it.”

Several t hings may happen here. First, the salesman may repeat the statement and realize on his own he neglected to ask for the order – a self-realization. At this point ask him to ask for the order and positively reinforce his response. On the other hand, the salesman may not realize he used the skill incorrectly, even after repeating it.

In this case ask the salesman what he thinks he could do to improve on the closing.

Confirm understanding and ask the salesperson to make another closing statement. Once again positively reinforce after correct skill usage. By utilizing this method you avoid falling into the trap of the “Psychological Sandwich.” That is, after the salesman received praise he is now waiting for the axe to fall, the praise becoming the antecedent to negative consequence.

Being a mentor or just using effective coaching techniques is key to getting employees to release their discretionary energy. Of course, it all starts with Respect & Trust.

Make no mistake ----- Employees will not start trusting you until you start trusting the employee.

Employees will not start respecting you until you start respecting the employee.

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