Like most people, you are busy at work and the idea of stopping to check on your strategy, effort, and work attitude is a tough one. Most are just too busy to reflect on how they are doing at work or whether they are achieving their objectives.

Checking your strategy, effort, and work attitude is important for success.

If you don’t check, you won’t know where you are heading. But if checking is important for success, why do you and many others keep putting it off?

Firstly, it’s hard work. Secondly, it may be painful. Thirdly, it takes time. And who’s got the extra time? You don’t, and most people probably don’t either.

However, in order to improve, you must discipline yourself to do things that others would not do. This creates an “advantage” for you over those who grumble and do no checking.

This is, in reality, what ensures your job stability. You’ll be great if you help yourself improve by 1% every week of the year.

Strategy, effort, and work attitude

Let’s start with these three areas: strategy, effort, and work attitude. Regardless of whether you are a senior manager or a supervisor, you had better be developing these three qualities in your staff.

1. Strategy

Starting with strategy, do you regularly analyze your work strategy? Do you give your permission to modify what is not working?

Researchers found that students who were able to exhibit cognitive flexibility did much better academically than those who were not (Latzman, et al.).

Cognitive control is also one of the top 5 differences between students from poverty and those from middle or upper-income families (Farah, et al.). However, even the best strategy can fail when a motivational approach becomes a problem.

2. Effort

The second characteristic is the ability of the person to motivate effort. A manager who encourages effort (motivation, drive, and persistence) will develop staff who have a strong chance of succeeding.

The effort is the sustained, raw energy that causes all good things to happen over time.

In addition to effort, research also shows that task persistence is a significant factor (Andersson & Bergman).

In reality, the ability to stick to a task with persistence and self-control matters twice as much as intelligence (Duckworth & Seligman).

3. Work Attitude

Sometimes the issue is neither strategy nor effort, but rather the attitude with which a task or job is approached.

Teachers who cultivate positive, growth-oriented mindsets will get far more of their students than those who believe they are continually stuck or hopeless. Likewise, supervisors who promote a growth mindset will get better performance from their staff.

This success attitude requires optimism and hope.

So, on a broad sweep, the three general factors that drive success for many people are strategy, effort, and work attitude.

We can add other complementary skills and attitudes to those three skills. If I could add one other thing, it would be social/emotional skills. Imagine everyone having this “package”: quick learning, good cognitive skills, strong effort, positive attitude, and excellent interpersonal skills. That’s an excellent package for any job market.

Hats off to those of you who are teachers. As It turns out, teachers contribute the largest amount to student success. They contribute more than socioeconomic status, student language, school quality, or class size (Hattie).

How to check your strategy, effort, and work attitude

Check your strategy, effort and work attitude
Check your strategy, effort, and work attitude

When department heads get overwhelmed and say to you “I have no control over the people in my department, their attitude, and how they work!” you can certainly help them.

All of the research on these three components support the importance of, and the potential for, change.

Here are some suggestions on how to check your strategy, effort, and work attitude.

1. Check your strategy

(a) Do you teach metacognitive skills to your supervisors and staff?

[Metacognitive skills help individuals process and retain information through self-recognition and reflection. Check out Wikipedia’s article on Metacognition.]

Help your staff recognize when their efforts are failing or not working  You can organize small group discussions, quality control circle meetings, or feedback analysis teams to do this.

(b) Show your staff how to recognize when something isn’t working properly. Use formative assessments if you think they are beneficial.

(c) Teach your supervisors and staff how to discover, create, or find a better strategy. Creative thinking could be something you may want to teach your staff.

(d) Be willing to change behavior, including changing to a growth mindset.

2. Check your effort

(a) When something needs a lot more work, how do you react both internally and in front of others? Do you say in front of your staff, “More work? We can do it.”

(b) How do you respond to “more work required” in those quiet moments alone? Do you say “I am willing to do that, but let me double-check my approach to make sure I’m putting in the correct effort?”

3. Check your work attitude

(a) Recognizing how you and your staff manage failure is one of the most significant insights. Are you the type of person who says to others the following?

  • “I can grow and change” as opposed to “I’m stuck the way I am today”.
  • “IQ is flexible and can be developed” as opposed to “IQ is a fixed, permanent feature”.
  • “I value the ability to learn new things throughout my life” in contrast to “Looking clever is vital”.
  • “Effort is a plus since it demonstrates my dedication and passion” vs. “Effort is bad and demonstrates that I lack ‘it'”.

These remarks either support or contradict the notion of staff development. They are known as implicit theories of change (Blackwell, et al.).

(b) Do you help your staff go through a mental checklist to become better instead of letting them feel helpless or soothing their losses when they struggle?

Your checklist could include the following items:
(1) “How am I feeling?” “Am I certain I will discover a means to succeed?”
(2) “How will I analyze this strategy to see if it is effective?”, and
)3) “Can I put in a lot of effort and perseverance to make this work?”


Just a few minutes of your time now can help you increase your chances of success. And if you increase this by just 1% per week, you’d be the best staff at your workplace.

So, start checking your strategy, effort, and work attitude to make sure you are on track to reaching your goals.


  • Andersson, H. & Bergman, L. R. “The Role of Task Persistence in Young Adolescence for Successful Educational and Occupational Attainment in Middle Adulthood.” Developmental Psychology, vol. 47, 2011, pp. 950-60.
  • Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., Dweck, C. S. “Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention.” Child Development, vol. 78, 2007, pp. 246-63.
  • Duckworth, A. L., Seligman, M.E. “Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents.” Psychological Sciences, vol. 16, 2005, pp. 939-44.
  • Farah, M. J., Shera, D. M., Savage, J. H., Betancourt, L., et al. “Childhood Poverty: Specific Associations with Neurocognitive Development.” Brain Research, vol. 1110, 2006, pp. 166-74.
  • Hattie, J. A. Visible Learning. London, Routledge, 2009.
  • Jensen, E. “Time for Your Mental Autopsy”. Adapted with permission.
  • Latzman, R.D., Elkovitch, N., Young, J., et al. “The Contribution of Executive Functioning to Academic Achievement Among Male Adolescents.” Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, vol. 32, 2010, pp. 455-62