Learn Why Leaders Should Recognize Effort Instead of Results

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 1.39.44 PM This past week I had the privilege of sitting down and consulting with a well known CEO.

He was visibly upset and somewhat frustrated.

He spoke about his dissatisfaction with his team and his disappointment with the organization’s results of the past year.

As he talked and I listened, I heard him say, “I do not believe in the idea of effort. I believe in rewarding results only.”

I had a hard time believing my ears.

This is what I call a fixed mindset.

Here was a leader of a very large organization who expects his employees to work hard, put in long hours, make great sales, and grow the company, but then not be rewarded for their efforts. Could this be possible? Was there a way of showing him that his beliefs were the root of the problem?

For me, he was suffering from what I call “CEO DIS-EASE.”

He believed that effort was not to be rewarded.
He believed that effort was for those with deficiencies.
He believed that effort reduces you.
He believed that people should come fully prepared and their work should be “effortless.”

Could this CEO see that he was the one keeping his organization playing small? Could he see how it was his fixed mindset that was holding them back?

Did he actually believe that we’re supposed to be perfect from the get-go; that we are born with qualities that need no effort to be cultivated?

Did he imagine that Picasso came out of the womb painting?

Did he believe that Michael Jordan was an athletic superstar from birth?

How could I make the CEO understand that, even if we are a genius, even if we are the most talented, even if we are the most qualified, we still need to work at it?

Improvement is a life-long pursuit.

Effort is an endless process.

The truth is being a genius takes effort.It is effort that ignites the ability and turns that ability into accomplishments.

I waited until he finished speaking, and then I challenged his thinking.

I wanted him to understand that effort was and is the direct link to growth and results.

I needed him to see that, if you challenge yourself, you are open to development. When you are open to development, you are oriented towards learning. And when you are open towards learning, you have a greater chance of succeeding.

But if you’re afraid of trying; if you’re afraid of taking chances; and if you’re frightened by challenges, how will you grow? How will you take yourself to the next level? If you have to be perfect, or if you have to appear to know everything, how does anyone expect you to succeed?

In order to achieve success; in order to manifest creative achievement, and in order to be rewarded with results, you need the kind of perseverance and resilience that produces a mindset of growth.

A mindset of growth begins with a knowing that you can challenge yourself; that you can take chances; that you can give it your best effort; and you can be resilient in the face of setbacks. Once you’re free to take those risks, you will achieve results, and you will create greater success.

Why is effort so scary for some?

Because when you actually try and you don’t succeed, who can you blame; what excuse can you give, and how will you acknowledge your shortcomings?

Without effort, you can say “I could have been…” However, once you try and you don’t succeed, you can’t say that anymore. You cannot delude yourself anymore.

I left the CEO with some thoughts:

You do not want to say: “This organization could have been and should have been.” When you want people to grow, to succeed, to achieve results, then you have to focus on their development. You have to focus on challenging them and acknowledging their efforts.

In order to grow his organization into something meaningful and to get it to where he wants it to be, he will have to give it his all for the things he values most. Once he begins to acknowledge the people who make the effort, and recognizes their risks, their challenges, and their failures, only then will he be rewarded without reservation.

Lead From Within: You must realize that you have to work the hardest for the things you love the most. You have to fight for it with your whole life. Being resilient and pursing with perseverance is taking yourself to the next level. And the secret ingredient to making it all work is… EFFORT.


N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R

The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Sean

    14. Dec, 2011

    Hi Lolly!

    Thanks for the article- I compeltely agree that without rewards or recognition of some kind, a workplace can grwo stale and foster a feeling of being underappreciated – but I believe it is tremendously important to reward the right efforts.
    By rewarding behaviors you want repeated, you send a message both to the recipient and to the others in your organization that doing the right things – trusting the process and working with integrity – will result in recognition (and ultimately, team success!)

    Reply to this comment
  2. Roy Saunderson

    14. Dec, 2011

    Ironically, Lolly, results are purely the outcome of the actions and behaviors…and effort (discerned by observed actions)…we put into any task or goal. Of course you reward effort!

    I wonder if he was caught up in the semantic differences between recognition versus rewards?

    Rewards, like incentives, are an “If-Then” transaction similar to compensation. You do this and you get that. It is expected, contracted and delivered upon results. They are mostly tangible and rather impersonally delivered

    Recognition can be more intangible in nature, very personal in delivery and often unexpected, even if well desired. We all have some degree of need for feeling valued and appreciated for ouyr contributions.

    Recognize the behaviors and you’ll get the results that merit the rewards.

    I hope your EFFORT paid off with this CEO, Lolly!

    All the best,


    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      14. Dec, 2011


      I agree wholeheartedly with your comment…. and I am so happy you are sharing.

      results are purely the outcome of the actions and behaviors…and effort (discerned by observed actions)…we put into any task or goal. Of course you reward effort!
      Rewards, like incentives, are an “If-Then” transaction similar to compensation. You do this and you get that. It is expected, contracted and delivered upon results. They are mostly tangible and rather impersonally delivered

      Recognition can be more intangible in nature, very personal in delivery and often unexpected, even if well desired. We all have some degree of need for feeling valued and appreciated for your contributions.

      I really enjoyed your passion in your comment– you sound as astounded as I did this week.. This is just the beginning of this journey with the CEO and the organization…. 2012 shall prove to be interesting.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.
      Happy Holiday to you and your family.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Carolyn CJ Jones

    14. Dec, 2011

    Hi Lolly,

    What an excellent article. I identified with it because I know of a small business owner who believes that hard, on-going, never-ending work is expected and one’s efforts are not worthy of acknowledgment. I have been speechless in the face of this belief, and had great sadness for his employees. I am amazed he can keep anyone at all. And I feel compassion for a man who values himself and others so very little. It makes me wonder what his demons are, or that of the persons who implanted that belief.

    I think what you told the CEO was right on. I love that you raised the issue with saying “could have been” and “should.” These are shaming words that we use all too often, for both others and ourselves. I wonder what kind of a world it would be if we eliminated could have been and should? Perhaps we could just then take the opportunity to look at people in their day to day lives and see their accomplishments, really see them.

    Carolyn CJ Jones

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      14. Dec, 2011

      Dearest Carolyn,

      My Mr CEO has a lot to process…… if he truly wants results, he will have to learn recognition, appreciation, rewards, effort counts, acknowledgement etc…
      The way I look at it… his CEO DISEASE is ALL about the dis-ease in which he lives his life and runs his company.

      This is the first step of this long journey.

      Thanks for your thoughts and heartfelt comment.

      Blessings and Happy Holidays

      Reply to this comment
  4. Simon Harvey

    14. Dec, 2011

    Lolly, what a tough, but challenging consult. It’s amazing this old school thinking is still alive, thankfully there are people like yourself that know and teach differently. As you point out, effort, perseverance and deliberate practice are instruments to success, and if high true high performance is required, an open, or growth mindset is the fule to these instruments.

    I can only imagine the state of this CEO’s workforces environment, backstabbing and hunkering down comes to mind with this “rewarding for results only” method. Last night’s LFW chat would have been a good primer for this gentleman, followed by another on Self-awareness.

    The problem with his old school approach, (and one still taught in our schools) of rewards for the correct answer, is that it sends a message of keep your head down, or it will get shot off.

    Innovative, adaptable companies are the ones that are succeeding today. With change around every corner, failure is nearly required for success, because if you don’t find the change you need, your competition will. I hope that this CEO listens and understands what a long road he may have to change a system that is obviously well ingrained, perhaps even in his culture. I think Peter M.Senge put it well when he wrote this:

    “new insights fail to get put into practice because they conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting”

    Obviously this CEO has a long way to go but has one powerful thing going for him, and that is you. Now all he needs to do is to listen, open his mind, grow, and leadfromwithin.

    Lolly, great post as usual, obviously it hit a point for me.

    Many thanks


    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      16. Dec, 2011

      Dearest SImon,

      As always you add priceless gems to my day. I truly enjoy reading your comments on my articles, they add much to think about and to ponder.
      I am grateful for your support and I am grateful for your exquisite mind and soul.
      Happy Holidays

      Reply to this comment
  5. Wayne McEvilly

    15. Dec, 2011

    Of universal applicability.
    This is the sort of wake up call that we all require from ourselves, yet more than often fail to give ourselves with such passion and sure direction with which you deliver it here.
    The word “inspiring” is no doubt way overused but this message is at the heart of the inspired inspiring –
    In my present efforts which all center around two major core projects – the 17 Mozart Piano Sonatas and the memorization of the Agni Mantras of the SAMAVEDA (actually to have all this material quite simply “by heart”) – these two “efforts” (and they are that) are the keys to how I must approach all else- they require due diligence and not just over an extended period of time, but each day and every day without fail. I live pretty far from the corporate world (yet we all are immersed in it through the fact of the matter of being in “today’s world” -love that phrase!-” but your urgent message to this CEO sure does apply to the rest of us too.
    All of us.
    As my skull cap says with it’s image of Bob Marley: “Wake Up And Live!” – and reward the effort it requires to do it!
    Wow what a piece of writing you have given us here!
    I truly love your consciousness.
    Thank you.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      16. Dec, 2011


      This is awake up call! YOU are correct! …..This is a message to WAKE UP AND LIVE. This is about taking stock of ourselves and how we treat others.
      This is about acknowledging others and appreciating them.
      This is about seeing that employees are people and not just a cog in a wheel.
      This is about self awareness and about his self reflection.
      This is about empathy and humility.
      This is about not blaming
      This is about accountability and responsibility.
      This is just the beginning….This is just the tip of the iceberg for Mr CEO.
      Thanks for stopping by and Know that I love your sentiments. They are spoken from the heart and I feel them.
      Happy Holidays.
      Love your skull cap!

      Reply to this comment
  6. John Paul

    15. Dec, 2011


    This CEO’s mindset is formed by the extreme short term expectations of financial markets that are dis-ease to our entire world. S/he is part of the problem rather than the solution as a leader. There was a recent Wall Street Journal article on this issue by Al Gore and David Blood titled, “A manifesto for Sustainable Capitalism.” http://on.wsj.com/rU1SuS

    In the article they talk to how sustainable capitalism puts an end to short term think and quarterly earning reports and focuses on address real business needs while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics throughout the decision-making process.

    Sustainable Capitalism aligns compensation structures with long-term sustainable performance. This enables companies and investors to make better resource-allocation decisions by seeing how ESG performance contributes to sustainable, long-term value creation.

    As you so well state, hitting the nail on the head, that improvement is a life-long pursuit. Effort is an endless process. Being successful does take effort. It is effort that ignites the ability and turns that ability into accomplishments. That happens when we move away from short-term thinking and aim toward more sustainable objectives.

    Picassos are not born they are forged in the crucibles of long term thinking and true value creation. Thank you for your courage to share this experience with you client and to publicly set the record straight.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach

    15. Dec, 2011

    Your finest most incisive post ever! Love the play on words “CEO Dis-ease” and it is widespread.

    It is so common that the leaders that report to CEOs often pass that disease on to the entire organization. In addition to overlooking recognition and effort, they also become mesmerized by numbers that prove results.

    I’m all for metrics and measurement. Yet numbers don’t tell the entire picture. As we know with the events of recent years, CEOs can interpret numbers from their own view.

    Heck it can happen to anyone. Yet when you look beneath the numbers at the true picture, you can see the clear landscape and also the slight disturbances in the crust that may erupt soon.

    Bravo to your post and your work. Very pleased to share it with others.


    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      16. Dec, 2011

      As you and I know that what you see is only half the story. You are correct when you stated; when you look beneath the numbers at the true picture, you can see the clear landscape and also the slight disturbances in the crust that may erupt soon.

      It is something I addressed in our meeting and I feel it would be great to address in my next blog post. Thanks for the inspiration and thanks for your insightful thoughts.
      Happy Holidays

      Reply to this comment
  8. Jon

    16. Dec, 2011

    Great article, thank you.

    But is it about rewarding the right effort?

    Do the right things the the result will occur. I once had an interesting debate with a client who gave his sales teams bonus on results only (typical in the industry). That was his belief and he didn’t want to change!

    He changed and rewarded them for doing the right things in the sales process. Sales went up.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      16. Dec, 2011


      For my CEO it is about the idea of EFFORT. (period) No rewards for the right effort or for effort itself.

      As Einstein stated…….…….doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
      I love how your client changed his perspective and got different results…

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
      Happy holidays

      Reply to this comment
  9. Rajasekhar

    16. Dec, 2011

    Its very interesting to see the different perspectives that everyone has on Effort Versus Result.

    My query is did the CEO mean that he does not believe in the “Idea of Effort” or the “Idea of Rewarding Efforts”

    Because if you look deep there exists two different world in both the interpretation of what the CEO Said

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      16. Dec, 2011


      Mr CEO most certainly “does not reward efforts” and he does like when you present him with an idea and you tell him about all the effort you put in. He is all about the bottom line. He just wants to know about RESULTS. As he keeps repeating RESULTS is all that MATTERS.

      Reply to this comment
      • Rajasekhar

        19. Dec, 2011

        If he “does like” someone presenting him with an idea and telling him about the effort that has gone into how would define the “like”

        Reply to this comment
  10. RSW

    16. Dec, 2011

    Lolly, thanks for this post. Very interesting conversation with the disillusioned CEO. Tough line to walk between effort and results.

    I’m a longtime college instructor. Often, I hear students complain that they should make high grades because they “tried really hard” or “came to every class,” despite the fact that their work is sub-par, unrefined, hastily crafted, etc. I explain to them that “trying really hard” is what’s expected of everyone; they’re putting in the long hours of practice and study that will one day make them really good at what they do. Not everyone gets a trophy just for being in the game.

    Now, I also I like seeing my students take my and their classmates’ suggestions to improve their work from draft to draft, and project to project. This is where effort comes in for me. Some students improve a little more slowly than others; that’s OK. Their work will reflect their learning in due time, perhaps in the next course sequence.

    Effort certainly makes a big difference, but it’s not 100% of a project. Today’s “Millennials” seem to expect A+ for the barest effort on a D- project. No “pats on the head” or “everyone wins 1st prize” here. Results are no longer meaningful if everyone’s efforts are rewarded rather than the results they achieve.

    When I’ve worked in corporate settings, I too have benefitted from a supervisor’s notice of my efforts/work that goes into a project. it’s great to know that he/she likes the direction I’m going. If not, he/she will certainly let me know. As you mention in the post, the CEO was baffled and didn’t know where to turn. I see this now at several friends’ companies. Their bosses have taken advantage of the tough economy over the last few years and have finally exhausted the “give us 125% and don’t you dare complain, or you’ll be out of a job” line. The best people at my friends’ workplaces are leaving; the lack of acknowledgment really hurt the companies even though the bosses thought they were doing the right thing by “being hard-core” and only rewarding effort.

    The whole “results or effort” issue is complicated, and I’m glad you’ve shed some light on it.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Don McAllister

    21. Dec, 2011

    This is an excellent article! I had a boss like this recently who didn’t reward effort. But my view is that success can be define in the daily efforts you take toward some goal.

    Reply to this comment
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  13. James

    10. Jan, 2013

    I searched out this article after reading your most recent one. I was looking to see if you had read ‘The Talent Code’ (thetalentcode.com) by Daniel Coyle. Your article reminded me of his book, which is full of stories and interviews with top authorities. In it, Mr. Coyle describes the best ‘how to’ of highly productive learning I have ever read. His website is great, too.

    Your article reminds me of another epiphany generating books, ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dwerck. As a self reforming ‘fixed mindset’ person, I really appreciate the emphasis on hard work to achieve results. I am striving to develop my growth mindset.

    If you have read ‘Mindset’, and I suspect you have, considering the terminology you have chosen to use, then you may recall that a certain kind of praise encourages more hard work, more persistence, and more grit. And the second kind of praise can actually undermine confidence, induce anxiety, and reduce risk taking, effort, and stick-to-it-iveness.

    The better praise is ‘You must have worked hard’

    The undermining praise is ‘You must be really smart/talented/etc’

    It has taken some time, but it makes sense to me now. If you are ‘smart’, and you try hard and fail, you lose. Not only have you shown you didn’t do it, you can’t even tell yourself, “I could’ve done it, if I tried.” Why risk your ego if it is so easy to say “it wasn’t really important to me anyhow”?

    If you work hard and that is the reason for your success, then you can always get better. It just requires more work, better attention, and incremental improvement. This point of view puts the power (and the responsibility) into the hands of the learner. Each improvement is a win.

    When your CEO learns that hard work is the most effective thing to praise he will develop a team with increasing commitment to succeed. Failure will not stop them, it will only tell them they haven’t yet mastered the solution. What do we have to learn/do/understand to get it done?

    They will be asking themselves, ‘What don’t I know?” when approaching a new problem.

    Your article reminded me of two books ‘Mindset’ and ‘The Talent Code’ that have changed my life. Loved it. Thanks.

    Reply to this comment
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