The Tipping Point of Effort

Have you ever noticed how the slightest change to a positive word or action can result in a new negative meaning?


effortTake the word ‘effort’, for example. Immediately we hear it and conjure up an image of someone working hard, trying their best, giving their all for a cause. Laudable so far – but what about when all that hard work gets you nowhere because the cause is lost, or one that no matter how hard you try, you cannot influence? That’s when upbeat ‘effort’ becomes draining ‘efforting’.

We all do it subconsciously so whatever our role in a team, it is useful to take stock of situations routinely and ask ourselves if we are making a valid effort, for which we will be duly rewarded, or if we are ‘efforting’ and wasting energy which could be used more effectively on other activities to achieve a more significant business outcome. The difference is immense and potentially game-changing.

Take parents choosing their child’s first school, a personal journey I have just completed. From the time a child is born, parents spend time considering which school their little one will attend for the best education and nurturing experience.

With half an eye on Ofsted reports during the toddler years, I visited several potential schools to view the set-up and see if they were the best environment for my twins when the time comes to release them into the care of teachers for the next 11 critical years in their development.

Activity around school open days and discussions at the nursery gates increased, the ‘what if?’ choosing-a-high-school-more-stressful-than-buying-a-house-20150311150128.png~q75,dx720y432u1r1gg,c--questions multiplied and the various merits of reception classes analysed to the Nth degree. Endless effort to get it right.

Finally, after much angst, the list was whittled down to three and the application submitted. My efforts over, the decision was in someone else’s hands now. The whole experience was draining – and still the effort was going into comparing the implications of which school would be given to us.

I’ve come to realise that all the ‘noise’ around choice of school, all the stress we put ourselves under, all the effort put into the selection process can be labelled ‘efforting’…the art of placing too much emphasis on trying to influence things that are ultimately beyond your control, damaging well-being along the way and taking over a disproportionate amount of time which would be far better served on other more worthwhile pursuits (sleep, exercise, quality time with children to name but a crucial few).

Sure, make an effort – the best you can for your children, naturally – but take a step back and acknowledge the real risk of transitioning into ‘efforting’ and turn attention to other aspects of the parenting journey.

Anyone reading this who has juggled the joys of parenthood with honing their leadership qualities can see the same principle applies in business.

There are times when it’s important to accept that you’ve given a situation your best effort and no more can realistically be done to influence the outcome; a project has run its course, that hard to manage colleague is not going to change; you’ve squeezed every penny out of a budget and cut services to the bone. I sense a few heads nodding now, reflecting on circumstances where you’ve felt at your wit’s end wondering what more effort you could possibly put in to bring about your desired outcome.

If something feels like an effort, you’re probably ‘efforting’

There are no hard and fast rules here, but generally speaking if something feels like an effort, you’re probably ‘efforting’ and fast sliding into a negative spiral.

As a guiding principle, take stock and apply the LEAD concept to your leadership of the situation:

  • Listening,
  • Energy Management,
  • Authenticity,
  • Direction.

If you’re applying all of those to your maximum potential, in all probability you’re making the required effort appropriate to the circumstances in front of you.

If you wish to know more about the iLEAD Principles of Leadership and Teamwork and how to bring them to life, then please do contact one of us.

Author: Jayne George