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Small Business Digest


5 Keys Steps to Gaining Company-Wide Discretionary Thinking

If every employee gave just five or ten percent more than the required thoughts every day at work, how much stimulus towards performance excellence would result? Is it possible to raise the level of staff’s discretionary thinking, company-wide?

Thomas Walter thinks It is possible and argues those organizations that have been fortunate enough to discover how to stimulate discretionary thinking are reaping about 500 more positive thoughts daily. These thoughts from each employee are centered on enhancing the organization, helping to propel it toward performance excellence.

Increasing the number of work-related thoughts doesn’t happen with a snap of the fingers, but there are several simple steps to take to warrant more from employees. Here are five tips on how to increase organization-related discretionary thinking company-wide:

Establish a culture of behavior: Does everyone know which employee behavior actions are expected? Life is so much more fluid and enjoyable when everyone knows and practices acceptable behavior.

Leaders always lead by example:  Leaders are always listened to and always watched. If an organization’s leaders follow the established company culture, then thoughts are not wasted on projecting what those leaders may do in any given situation. No need to expend those questioning thoughts, because the organizational leaders will automatically follow the expected culture of behavior.

Screen for skill, hire for attitude: Only hire and retain employees that follow the organizational culture. Leaders can teach skills, but attitudes are an acquired internal behavior that can rarely change. If all members of a staff share the same emotional approach to life, then creative thinking becomes contagious—and popular.

Remove disruptors from the workplace: Disruptors are those activities that detract from positive organizational behavior. These range from banging doors and uncomfortable work temperatures, to disruptive music and unclean restrooms.
These activities result in staff using their discretionary thinking to wonder why leadership allows these patterns or uncomfortable situations to exist. Imagine someone developing a great idea that would enhance the organization, only to have his co-worker in the next cube crank up Hank Williams Jr.
That idea is placed on the back-burner (as he instead focuses on the annoyance), is set back, is underdeveloped or is turned off completely, all because of an undesirable working condition.

Recognize and reward those that give maximum effort: Outcome is not as critical as effort when trying to boost employee engagement. Striving for recognition is part of human nature. Members of an organization quickly learn how recognition is achieved. Staff will often use their discretionary thoughts to pursue ideas that might earn them recognition.
In these instances, recognition is primary and rewards are secondary. Leaders should be sensitive to the type of rewards that are dispensed. It can be difficult to monetarily reward anyone that uses their discretionary thinking to utilize cognitive skills in their daily work efforts.
A monetary reward might potentially place a price on that specific effort in place of recognition for a job well done. In other words, determine rewards that don’t detract from good efforts—rewards that your staff will appreciate. Ideas for rewards may include tickets for a family outing.

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