I enjoy watching people do things they’re passionate about and good at. Two examples come to mind, particularly because I lack the passion and talent to do either.
First, the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. While I enjoy swimming, biking and running, I have no desire to combine them into a singular activity for myself. That is likely why I’m so intrigued by those who make it to Kona. To reach the World Championship event these athletes must be incredibly dedicated and goal-focused. You don’t just show-up and automatically get a spot in Kona. Competitors must qualify through rigorous competition against others with similar talent and passion levels.
The second example is the Broadway musical Hamilton. I’ve seen it in person, streamed it at home and listened to the soundtrack. The writing by Lin Manuel Miranda is genius, the choreography is fantastic and the performers were perfectly selected for their roles. Put it all together and the performance is powerful and something I wish everyone could see. I have neither the confidence nor the ability to perform in Hamilton (or any other show for that matter), but I’m thankful for those who are able to do so at such a high level.
Elite athletes and Broadway performers are easy to single out as having above-average abilities. However, I’ve had the good fortune to work with individuals in the business world that are top-tier in their own disciplines. Every one of them had at least one thing in common. They recognize and embrace the effort required to be a high performer.
What is the Effort Intersection?
Effort is the intersection of foresight and work-ethic (see Intersection 29 image below). Foresight without work-ethic is an arm-chair quarterback. Work-ethic without foresight is wheel-spinning in the mud.
Conceptually, effort seems easy to define…just try hard. Using effort to get results though is more than just trying hard. It’s also intentional. In my experience, results from effort are at their best when the questions of why, when, how, where and what are considered in expending effort.
Foresight addresses the “why”…Why expend effort? While it contributes to some of the other questions, it is primarily the rationale driver for effort. We see potential or an objective that's possible but requires effort and we make the deliberate choice to either put effort into achieving that objective or use our effort toward a different end.
Foresight doesn’t imply the ability to predict the future, rather an openness to possibility. It also indicates an understanding of consequences. If effort is put into task A the outcome is different than if effort is put into task B. Foresight informs decision making about the allocation of resources.
Intersection 29: Effort = Foresight + Work-Ethic
Work-ethic is the willingness and ability to put effort into action with the intention of achieving something. This includes the motivation to invest in the full lifecycle of accomplishment. Think about the athletes or performers mentioned above. They put countless hours, many times over years, into practicing, failing, iterating, exploring, growing, overcoming and finishing, in order to meet some personal and / or professional goal.
Work-ethic is how we choose to allocate the resources inherently available to us. Our time, effort, intelligence and emotion. We know that simply working at something doesn’t guarantee success. But we also know that rarely is success achieved without being worked for.
What Can Leaders Do?
Leaders know the individuals on their teams and the level of effort they can expect from each. They also know that the team itself is an entity that puts forth effort. Because of that, there are likely team members whose strength lies in foresight and others whose strength lies in work-ethic, as well as those who are gifted with both to varying degrees. The challenge and opportunity for leaders is to build and use their teams to maximize the effort impact of each individual and the team overall.
When it comes to effort, the opposite of success is waste. Inefficiency is always a risk. Sometimes it can’t be avoided as individuals or teams are learning and growing. Ideally, leaders recognize this and make the necessary adjustments to optimize the talent, passion and utility of everyone on the team.
Wrap Up & Up Next
Effort, if defined as simply trying, is easy. Effort, if defined as when foresight and work-ethic meet, is more complex but has a greater potential impact in the long-run.
Next time we’ll examine the 30th intersection of performance, which is the Alignment Intersection.
In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.