Do You Have An Employee Who Is Wearing You Out?

by Aug 2, 2019Talent

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Whoa and Giddy up Can Tell You Everything

In my various roles leading organizations over the years, I came up with a management concept that I found to be incredibly valuable. It came down to asking myself a particular question when it came to my employees. The question: was I more often telling them to “giddy up,” or was I telling them “whoa?”

This has nothing to do with horseback riding and everything to do with energy: was the employee giving me and the organization energy, or were they draining it away?

If I had to tell an employee to “giddy up” all the time, for instance, that meant I found myself trying to push them to take action or to engage in more projects. I was forced to try and motivate them; which took a lot of my energy away. It was an issue of inertia where I needed to use my energy to try and move an inert object (my employee). Now, I have a ton of energy, but these were the people who were constantly wearing me out – which greatly hindered our ability to scale as an organization. In fact, no matter how much energy you have, there is a limit to how many Giddy Up employees you can handle before you are drained. There is a joke about people like this: they can brighten any room… by leaving.

One of the characteristics of good leaders is the desire to make everyone around them successful, so it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like we aren’t helping enough. If we could just get our employees to see what we see, they’d go for it. Asking this question helps a leader see if the energy level is temporary (we all have bad days) or chronic.

On the other hand, there were employees I found myself saying “whoa!” to all the time. These are the folks who were constantly coming up with new ideas, starting new projects, and chasing down opportunities. The problem was that they sometimes got too far ahead of the organization with their ideas, which meant I had to try and slow them down from time to time, or else they might actually do harm to the organization.

Don’t get me wrong: these employees were investing their enormous energy in moving the organization forward. They gave me energy, rather than took it away- which was incredibly valuable to me as a leader. These were the people who could help us scale faster because they didn’t need as much hand-holding to produce results. I hated to tell them, “Whoa” because we needed what they had, but if I let them get too far ahead – they could damage the organization.

The truth is that when it comes to building a scalable organization, your ideal employees exhibit a balance between “giddy up” and “whoa” – or at least a mix of people who exhibited both energy levels. If you had a management team of ten people, for example, you might want seven who you needed to tell “whoa” and just three who needed a “giddy up” from time to time. The opposite ratio would be an issue.

So take the time to assess whether the people on your team are energy givers or energy-takers. Which ones do you find yourself trying to get moving- or to slow down? If you find that you have too many, or too few of both, it might be time to reassess your team and see how you might be able to create a healthier mix. Not only will that help your organization scale faster and more sustainably it will also make your life far easier as their leader. You might even find that you have more personal energy to drive the organization ahead.