Nov 15, 2011

Give Your 110%

"I want you to give your 110% to this effort!" How many times have you heard this? How many times have you said this?  


Let's put aside the fact that you can't give 110%, and that you can't give 100% all the time or else you'll burn out. After all, if humans could give 100% all the time, Usain Bolt would run the marathon in about 67 minutes, which is about half as much as the current world record. As a leader, you really just want your employees to give the maximum effort as often as possible. No matter what you try, it will never be 100%.


Employees aren't robots, they're people and people get tired, they get distracted, they get sick, and so on. Each of these factors takes away from the 100% and there's nothing you can do about it. However, there are many other factors that take away from that effort which can be controlled.

  • Social interaction: Social interaction is an important part of the work. People who work together often eventually start sharing information about each other, they laugh together, they develop friendships, and so on. It's an important part of creating a team mentality. However, it can get out of hand when all people do is joke around and do very little work (think of the comedy ":The Office").
  • Not having the right tools: Technology in all fields is progressing at breakneck speed. It's nearly impossible to keep up. If we take computer programs, for example. Many companies wait before upgrading the software they use. However, when tools are five or six years behind current versions, employees may be wasting time doing things that more recent versions can do more effectively.
  • Skills deficiency: Does John have the proper skills to do his work, or is he putting twice the effort to do the same work that others in his team are doing? Is his supervisor aware of John's predicament? What help is available for John to get up to speed?
  • Micro-management: Is Sally putting more work into reaching her goals or into reporting what she is doing? When are the scheduled milestones where Sally must report progress or warn about possible issues? Is there enough trust between her and her supervisor to let her be as effective as possible, while the supervisor is not concerned that she is not doing her work properly?
  • Negative atmosphere: This can take on many forms, from gossiping, to outright conflicts, to overt politicking, the the threat of pending layoffs. When the atmosphere is overly negative, employees put more effort into protecting themselves and trying to work around the landmines than they do on getting the work done.

Of course, there can be many other types of distractions or issues that affect the effective output of an employee. Some are under the leader's control (ineffective business processes, too many mandatory meetings) while some aren't (personal issues, sickness). This is illustrated in the following diagram:



No matter what you do, employees cannot give 100% everyday, all day. However, if as a leader you can find the reasons that affect this output, and you can effectively address them, then you might just get 80% all day. That's much better than average.

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