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Unlocking discretionary effort: how mindset techniques make the difference

Here we looked at what discretionary effort is and why certain approaches might not encourage it. But, as with all personal development programmes, individuals are motivated by different things, so we wanted to share our thoughts on ways in which you can encourage a change of mindset.

It starts with beliefs

At Transform Performance our philosophy is: beliefs drive behaviours which drive outcomes. We start a client change programme by examining mindsets, and from our research we understand the recipe for high performance for leaders and salespeople; this is what we bring to our clients in order to transform their performance.

We’ve noticed that employees having the knowledge that there is a recipe, something broadly tangible, is an incentive for people to revisit their beliefs and seek true change. You can incentivise people to go that extra mile if they believe there’s something in it for them (the ability to perform as the best version of themselves) and if they can see that their organisation is committed to helping them better themselves.

Great minds can be trained to think alike

The trick is to unlock the organisation’s desire to invest in people properly – that means more than running training for all, instead looking to build on people’s natural talents and draw out and celebrate their strengths. In addition, we need to uncover the individuals’ desire to contribute more than the bare minimum by helping them see the bigger picture and feel that their employer ‘deserves’ this. That is how we unlock discretionary effort.

But how? This is about thinking differently. Changing the narrative so that your people can see that you are inspired to help them perform at a different level.

Sport is well known for using mindset techniques often found in the boardroom of high-performing businesses to help with the mental control needed when the pressure is on. It is at these times when they need to inspire a kind of discretionary effort: with sport though, it’s about squeezing every last drop of effort from teams to ensure success.

When Jonny Wilkinson kicked a winning drop goal in the dying minutes of the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final, you knew he had a way of maintaining calm and going the extra mile. He had absolute belief.

This belief started in NASA with Visual Motor Rehearsal and was eventually used in sport for the first time by Dr Denis Waitley, for the US Olympic programme during the 1980s. The All Blacks were also inspired by the mindsets of the leadership team in NASA to overcome challenges which threatened to become blocks to their continuing success.

It involves creating such a strong and visceral mental image of success that the brain forms neurological pathways similar to those created as part of a real-life experience. In other words, they create a real hunger for success and this generates more action designed to achieve it.

Using techniques from different worlds to the one in which you operate is an effective way to open the minds of those who perhaps already believe they are at their best. By opening their minds to something completely out of context, we can encourage them to push boundaries they didn’t even know were there.

Dare to be different

We believe you should find out what drives every individual that you work with. We all get inspiration in different ways, but the root to finding out what works belongs deep in our belief system; that’s why you should start there.

If people feel disengaged, bored, or that there is no purpose in doing or being better, you will never unlock discretionary effort. However, if they can see they are part of a dynamic and ambitious culture where people are continually bettering themselves, they will be inspired to do the same.

If your investment in your people is interactive, engaging and varied, you will be rewarded by long-term interest in continual self-improvement and it is this which creates high performing individuals – who always put in the discretionary effort.

To explore working with us, let us know what you’re looking for and our development programme experts will be in touch.

Further reading:

Businesswoman running with a super hero cape

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