Why Effort Isn’t Enough to Reap the Best Rewards (Virtual Book Tour: Cynthia Kocialski)

Today we have Cynthia Kocialski here to talk effort and rewards as part of a book tour for her latest book, Out of the Classroom Lessons in Success: How to Prosper Without Being at the Top of The Class. Our regular Open Loop section will appear tomorrow.

As school children, we are taught that there is a clear relationship between effort and reward. The harder you work, the more you work, the more successful you will become. Okay, so that’s a blinding glimpse of the obvious. However, it goes further than effort.

Reward, Effort, and Accomplishments

What does every resume consultant tell job seekers about differentiation – center your resume on your accomplishments in past jobs, don’t focus on what tasks and responsibilities were associated with each position. Bottom line, it’s about achieving results. The reward is greater for those with accomplishments than those who simply expend effort.

I once worked for a CEO who was fond of saying, “It’s not age discrimination, it’s accomplishment discrimination”. In his opinion, if you were in your forties, you shouldn’t be asking for a low level position. Such a job was for someone in their late twenties, who would be happier in the lower position, have a better attitude, and who had the potential to be a future executive. Mid-career candidates should be seeking more senior work.

The Failed Reward and Effort Experiment

Back in the 1990’s “employee empowerment” was the latest human resource rage. Every employee could shut down a manufacturing line or provide support for a customer problem. However, if they shut down a manufacturing line and the reason was unfounded, their misguided action would reflect poorly in their next performance review. On the other hand, if their actions saved the company, they would be handsomely rewarded. Empowerment affected their pay checks. It sounded wonderful, but the new method became undesirable. Effort and reward got married to consequences; employees wanted the upside, but not the downside. They didn’t want to be held accountable for their actions, and empowerment became a failed business experiment.

Limitations of Effort

Bonuses are liked by every employee. If they perform, they will get more money in their pay checks. It’s only the positive side of employee empowerment. There’s no downside to bonuses. Overtime pay is another example of the greater the effort, the greater the reward. However, the reward is limited.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Work smart, not hard”. Yet, not many get it. Working hard is putting in more hours. The objective isn’t to work longer to get paid more because everyone has access to the same 24 hours in a day. The goal is to find ways to be more productive in the same amount of time – and that always comes down to automate, outsource, or hire.

Limitations of Best Effort on a Business

You might think that those who are self-employed or run their own small business think in terms of goals, but that’s not true either. I continually run into businesses that want to center their proposals on their best effort. They want to be paid based upon the effort they put into an assignment. A marketing firm wants to be paid for getting your company exposure in the press, but if your intent is to sell a product then what really matters is whether that exposure increases your sales. I’ve dealt with marketing firms that don’t even ask for the results. It’s as if they don’t care about the results of their efforts. This leaves the customer with the impression that they don’t really care at all. When a tutor or coach is engaged, there is no guarantee the student will learn anything because tutors want to be paid for effort.

Customers do business with and continue to give their business to those they believe have taken the trouble to see their concerns from their point of view. Not only should entrepreneurs know what their customers problems are, but also know what their customers are hoping to achieve.

The Missing Link in Effort and Reward Equation

Effort may reap rewards, but accomplishments yield success and even bigger rewards. Another truth about effort and reward is that the more you reduce the risk, the more you reduce the reward; reduce the risk too much and you reduce the reward to being inconsequential or trivial.

The concept of winning is softly whispered around school children. Grownups don’t want them to get the misguided impression that winning is all that matters, lest they should win at any costs. However, reaching a goal is winning. If we want our children to grow up to be successful professionals and highly accomplished, then this is ridiculous. It would be good to teach our children that achievements matter and exceeding expectations bring greater rewards, and effort won’t be enough to reach lofty dreams. The notion that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game is rubbish. Just try telling your customer that you didn’t deliver on what you promised, but you gave it the ole college try.

About the Author

Cynthia Kocialski is the founder of three tech start-ups companies. In the past 15 years, she has been involved in dozens of start-ups. Cynthia writes the Start-up Entrepreneurs’ Blog, www.cynthiakocialski.com. Cynthia has written the book, “Out of the Classroom Lessons in Success: How to Prosper Without Being at the Top of The Class.” The book serves up tips, insight, and wisdom to enable young adults and parents of kids to know what it will take to forge a successful career, no matter what their academic achievement.