Effort and feedback loop to maximise productivity

What you need to know:

  • In last week’s Business Talk, we delineated how working professionals often view tasks and responsibilities as necessary but tedious, dreary, and bitter actions.
  • Workers should think of putting in work effort as a regular way of life to feel better in the short-term here and now.

Avoid. Postpone. Struggle. Face boredom. Millions of us in Kenya and throughout the world struggle with maintaining high momentum quality effort in our workplaces.

In last week’s Business Talk, we delineated how working professionals often view tasks and responsibilities as necessary but tedious, dreary, and bitter actions necessary to secure better medium and long-term rewards.

But instead, workers should think of putting in work effort as a regular way of life to feel better in the short-term here and now. Social scientists Paula Lopez-Gamundi and Margaret Wardle find that cognitive mental effort is distinct from other types of effort, such as physical effort.

But finding joy and fulfillment in actually putting in the effort rather than only the fruits of one’s labour can become a difficult uphill journey. Thankfully, researcher Fabrice Cavarretta developed seven ways that leaders can instill proper employee views of work cognitive effort.

Today’s Business Talk will examine her seven leadership methods and two additional researched techniques.


Executives must stop the popular mantras of “work hard, play hard”, “push through the pain”, “work through the boredom”, and “no pain, no gain”.

When a manager tacitly or explicitly creates a culture that work tasks are indeed undesirable, then workers start feeling forced and psychologically look for short-term mental rewards elsewhere such as wasting time on social media, watching Netflix, socialising in the lunchroom, etc.

It creates a loss of motivation that instead could have been prevented if the leader phrased tasks as exciting, learning experiences, and interesting. 


Incorporate the concept of felt trust into teams, departments, or firms. Develop trustworthiness demonstrations to show that you trust your workers. Maybe allow a worker committee to make an important decision without you overruling them.

Hold a baraza and incorporate several staff ideas. Ask specific employees their opinions on corporate matters. When employees feel trusted, valued, and believed in, then they feel that their tasks and results are more important, and therefore they experience greater joy in putting in the effort.


Recognise that humans thrived throughout the millennia as a social species. Therefore, create social connectedness and intertwined tasks for workers. Involve feedback loops where great effort is praised and championed by you as the leader, but also by the team.

The interconnectedness then ensures that greater individual effort will boost the results for the team as a whole and therefore making tasks inherently more enjoyable for the employees.


Some leaders who utilise transactional leadership techniques of checking in, pushing, pursuing, looking into, and inquiring may overstep their follow-up by causing undue pressure on employees thus turning task effort into chores instead of joys.

Such executives must master the art of nudging staff gently with genuine soft inquiries that creates positive performance loops.


Grant employees autonomy in how they put in their work effort to accomplish their tasks. When workers select their own working methods, then they exhibit happier attitudes towards putting in effort. 


Train workers that, commensurate with autonomy, they are empowered to actually take control and be responsible for themselves. Do not assume that staff will notice that a leader is granting them authority unless they are explicitly told and then shown how to exercise that autonomy and control.


Do not merely emphasise the negative in team meetings. Do not only correct and admonish, but also compliment and champion good effort as well as results. Actively look for positives to highlight. Also, create times for fun department interactions.


Researchers Wan Jiang, Bingqian Liang, and Linlin Wang also found that leaders who actively act to stamp out unethical, yet still pro-organisational, behaviour can avoid decreases in sustained employee work effort.

Unethical pro-organisational behaviour can include actions such as falsifying government regulator reports, stamping out unions, or high-pressure sales tactics, as examples. Departments, teams, and organisations with low integrity correlate with staff who put in less effort.


Matthieu Chemin uncovered recently that groups logically get demoralised when lazy, free-riding, and social loafing colleagues get promoted or put in positions of authority. It dramatically decreases work effort by the remaining team members.

Executives should obviously promote managers and supervisors who exhibit solid competency and hard-working leaders who share knowledge widely across their teams.

The above nine actions show how a leader can hold substantial sway in how a team approaches the concept of effort. Making the effort itself enjoyable can create sustained performance instead of only short-term bursts of productivity.

Join Business Talk next week as we delve into self-leadership practices you can incorporate in your daily work life to enhance your own task effort enjoyment and long-term pleasure and performance.

Dr Scott may be reached on [email protected] or on Twitter: @ScottProfessor

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