Discretionary effort: The secret to business success

Have you ever received a gift–say, baked goods, or a small gift–from a customer?

Vincent_AF from Rotterdam, Netherlands, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

News flash for all readers outside of China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos: You don’t live in a Communist country.

That means that any gift you received ain’t a bribe: It’s an actual gift.

You provide a product or service, they provide payment. That’s the system.

Except for you (and about every other person who I’ve asked this question), it isn’t! Customers go above and beyond payment to give you something more.

You have “food people,” as my podcast partner Mike Marshall calls them. And I bet it’s not just food.

Positive surveys.

Thank-you cards to leadership.

Good online reviews.

Wearing your logo, or sipping coffee out of it.

Maybe even sending you a referral.

It’s what the researchers call “discretionary effort.” Real business success comes about from that kind of loyalty.

Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire: Built by (and for) love.

Your employees are no different. To paraphrase my colleague Chris Hunsicker, you can buy their hands, maybe their head.

But you can’t buy their heart.

It’s something we’ve talked about many times on this blog, from children playing together to the different kinds of stonecutters at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Here’s one more resource:

My brother and his family kept telling me how much they enjoyed Barnes & Noble nowadays.

I thought they were crazy. Turns out they were right. Read the fascinating story here: “What Can We Learn from Barns & Noble’s Surprising Turnaround?

Empowering employees to do what they love. Discretionary effort saved a bricks-and-mortar giant that was on its knees.

What can discretionary effort do for you?

If you want to go further, check out this link. It features a podcast episode, a worksheet, and the two stories mentioned above–kids playing and St. Paul’s.

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