Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ambitious and Impatient Employees by James Adonis

There are two types of people in this world: those who stand on escalators – and those who frantically walk up them eager to reach their destination a few seconds sooner than the rest.

Escalator-walkers have a lot in common with ambitious and impatient employees. Both groups get frustrated at the thought of being held back by elements beyond their control.

As an aggressive escalator-walker, I speak on behalf of my fellow climbers when I say that there are three main rules of escalator etiquette that we urge others to follow.

- Don’t stand on the right-hand side or in the middle. Otherwise known as “blockers”, these people prevent an escalator-walker from reaching the finish line.

- Don’t stop just before the end. Usually referred to as “brakers”, these people fear getting their feet caught because they abruptly halt at the top of the escalators.

- Don’t stand too close. When a throng of people leave an escalator-walker with no choice but to stand, the “touchers” ignore the two-step exclusion zone.

The one theme that runs throughout all three of these is access. Likewise, to keep ambitious and impatient employees engaged, we need to give them access in three ways.

Be less of a blocker. Provide employees with access to interact with senior managers, access to be involved in major projects, and access to participate in important discussions.

Be less of a braker. Building their resume means the world to ambitious employees, so give them access to mentors, guides, training, and be their advocate.

Be less of a toucher. Expand access levels by avoiding micromanagement. Give them the space to make decisions, accept what they come up with, and even let them fail.

Ambitious and impatient employees might be the ones demanding progress, but at the end of the day, a primary driver of engagement is every employee’s progress in whichever way they define it. This is summed up by comedian, Mitch Hedberg, who said:

“An escalator can never break; it can only become stairs. You would never see an ‘Escalator temporarily out of order’ sign, just ‘Escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience’."

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