Recognizing Effort, Not Just Outcome

I find myself drawn to many topics, one of which is leadership development.  Obviously, being an educator I look in the “Education” section of book stores and websites.  However, as most educators know, the education field is more than just teaching.  It’s a little bit of psychology, sociology, human development, brain science, etc….For me to be the most effective educator I can be, I have to read outside my field.  Many books I find in the “Business” section are leadership books…books that often teach us, as adults, to work with other adults.  This is a crucial skill not only in education, but in life.

My husband, a seventh-grade communication arts teacher,  and I have been listening to Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership podcasts, which can be downloaded at These podcasts are phenomenal, some of the most downloaded podcasts in the business section.  They are not only helpful to the specific people they are targeted for (business leaders), they are also helpful to educators, leaders in any field and quite frankly anyone wanting to understand themselves and others. Today, I listened to episode 5, which was about recognition.  A lesson I took away from this was the importance of recognizing not just outcome (when someone accomplishes a goal), but also effort.  What a simple concept, but one I’m not sure I do enough.  I obviously give lots of encouragement to my little third graders, but how often do I really time take out of our busy days to “celebrate” effort?  The answer is easy: not nearly enough.  Putting myself in the shoes of those kids who take sometimes an excruciating long time to accomplish a goal (like memorizing their basic multiplication facts), I realize the importance of recognizing and celebrating effort, not just the outcome.  From their perspective, accomplishing the goal must be hard to see down the road.  I wonder if some of them believe they won’t even get to the end result. Thus, less effort is put out.  I wonder what a difference it would make if I was more proactive about encouraging effort….would they start to believe in themselves a little more?  Would they put in more effort?  Would I have even more students accomplishing the goal?

I think this concept also applies to administrators, and as far as that goes, teacher-to-teacher relationships.  Being a highly effective educator is a tough task to accomplish.  It is one that includes effort, time, energy, thinking, re-thinking, collborating…and sometimes “failure.”  Sometimes, teachers put so much effort  forth trying to help a student accomplish “x” skill, only to find that it was the wrong approach to take.  This is to no fault of the teacher. This is simply how hard teaching is.  It is not always easy to figure out why students struggle with certain skills. This can be daunting and if you are not careful, it can cause a teacher to doubt their abilities (while it certainly should not).   Having a culture where your colleagues and your administrators foster and encourage that effort, no matter the outcome, is so important.  It is like the saying goes, you have to fail in order to succeed.  So maybe all the effort you put in the first strategy did not work, but if the encouragement and recognition of the effort of trying to help a student is in place, maybe a teacher would then go on to find the light bulb moment for their student.   Adults, no matter how much of us like to admit it, need this encouragement as much as our students do.

This concept also applies in everyday life.  Think of your personal goals–give yourself credit for trying (just be honest in whether you’re actually trying or not!)   Then move forward.

It also applies to relationships in your personal life. Give your loved ones and friends recognition for trying, despite the outcome. I bet it could make a world of a difference in your interactions with them.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the concept of rewarding effort, not just outcome.  Thanks, in advance, for any thoughts you are willing to share!

6 thoughts on “Recognizing Effort, Not Just Outcome

  1. I like your article and you are most certainly correct, we all should everyday appreciate another’s effort. Can you imagine what goes through the mind of, for examples one of your third graders, when trying so hard to be correct when others around him or her correctly finished way ahead. That young Learner wants nothing more than to get it right, the emotion filled thoughts running around in the mind. Not giving up and making effort is more then enough to appreciate.

    Today’s Education thought is just wrong, not only classing Learners by evaluation
    being at fault but the teachers also. Society today is test and status crazed. I am in the education field and would love to see dramatic change in the way we interact with one another. In classrooms maybe a large portion of scores should be based on class participation and effort.

    Yes, effort does matter in my book, yes, indeed.

    Thank you for a well written and thought to action article.

  2. Hello, I am taking a media education course at the University of South Alabama ( As part of my assignment, I will be commenting on two of your blog posts and summarizing your posts and my responses on my student blog ( by 2/12/12.

    I like Dave Ramsey’s ideas as well. And I have often found the same lessons in many of the “leader development” books in the business section. When I worked part time for a book store, I was surprised at how much readily available information there was in the business section that applies to many aspects of teaching or coaching.

    Your comments on celebrating effort as well as outcome were “spot on.” I know too many very successful people who never stop to acknowledge their own accomplishments nor the effort it took to meet a goal. They just seem to cross it off the list, and move on to the next thing. Having a sense of wonder about what you did and how much it took to do it should never leave us. And should we not all celebrate the “winner who cries, and the loser that tries”?

  3. LaShunda Barnes

    I really enjoyed reading your blog titled Recognizing Effort Not Just Outcome. I will be sure to remember this once I began teaching. I actually do practice this with my daughter. I think this is important because it allows the child to continue to push and do the best that they can to reach the top of what they are doing.

  4. Daisy Snow

    This blog post made me think about things I have never thought about. Who would have known that reading books from the business section could apply to educators? Also, like you said, educators should not get discouraged if their strategies doesn’t work the first, but to just try again. You do have to fail in order to succeed, or you would never learn.
    Again, I am a student at the University of South Alabama in edm310.

  5. For years, I went through leadership conference after conference. I was always deemed leader of my group, whether it was SGA president or sports captain, but not once did I really think about showing reward for simple effort. It was always something that laid at the light at the end of the tunnel. Reading this was truly an eye opener.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s