Why do some people really give a damn, while others do just what they can to get by? Going the extra mile – doing more than is necessary – creates memorable magic. If it feels so good, why is it hard to come by?
The HR term for this is >strong>discretionary effort, a close cousin of employee engagement. Discretionary effort is the level of effort people could give if they wanted to – above and beyond what is required.
Such efforts are often done behind the scenes in ways no performance appraisal system will recognize: it’s the exec who mentors more people than anyone would rationally do, the school cafeteria worker who arranges the kids veggies into smiley face, or the mom who puts just the right note into their child’s lunchbox each day.
Some Extra Miles I’ve Run Across Recently
- Jared – I was inspired to write this post after I learned of the discretionary effort Jared, my nephew, modeled when asked to get his 8-year-old brother off the school bus on his last day of school. The job was simple. “Be sure he gets from the bus to the house safely.” Simple enough. Jared did that, but also blinged up the house with some “graduation” type hoopla. After all, how many times do you get to celebrate the sweet spot between ending 2nd grade and starting 3rd?
- John – John is my web developer and is deep in the process of creating my LGL in Español site. Apparently, he’s been coming in behind me on the English version, and fixing spacing and other aesthetics to improve our community experience. He’s not billing me for this extra effort, but believes in the LGL cause. He then made a video walking me through my common formatting mistakes and how to fix them. This Saturday morning, he talked me out of what I asked him to do (and would have paid him for) and he was right.
- Mike – Mike’s my kickboxing instructor. I pay ten bucks a class. He’s now created an obstacle course through the woods to make things more interesting. On Mother’s day he gave roses to all the mothers, and brought in all kinds of baskets to give away, including to the “oldest mother” in the class. He acted like he didn’t know who it would be. But as luck would have it, the oldest mom was the 60 something woman clearly out to make a major lifestyle change, hanging out with a bunch of athletes and doing her best.
The extra mile always chokes me up.
A Few Reasons People Go the Extra Mile
- They’ve Experienced It – I know Jared comes from a long line of extra milers. He cares deeply because he’s surrounded by loving examples. If you’re a parent go the extra mile – your kids are watching. If you’re a manager, do more than seems reasonable to support your employees. They may not seem to notice, but trust me, they do. Keep going the extra mile, and soon enough your team will be running right beside you.
- The Cause Matters – The truth is people volunteer for all kinds of stuff outside of work and don’t think twice. They’ll stay up late, they’ll schlepp kids all over the state, they’ll donate substantial time and money to causes that matter. Rally around the reason.
- You Care About Them As People – The other day I heard of some turmoil in an organization I led a while back. I was deeply concerned about the people, so I was immediately drawn back to care about the scene. No one would notice if I didn’t engage, and my husband wondered why I still cared so much. Business is always personal. You can’t lead well without investing deeply in the people involved. If you’re leading from the heart, you may need to jump back in the race and run a few folks in.
I’ll stop here so you can add to the list.