Help Wanted: High Energy Level Required!

Mar 22, 2004

I’ve written before in The Zweig Letter about the need for passion. Anyone who is going to be truly successful in an A/E or environmental firm has to have it. You have to LOVE what you are doing if you are going to be your best every day, take pride in the final product, and be able to rise above the BS that we all encounter, both inside and outside of the organization. The passion is what keeps you learning. You care and are interested. Every day that goes by, I see more examples, both good and bad, of those who have the passion it takes and those who don’t. My advice to those who don’t have the passion: Get out now. You are wasting your time. Do something else that you are more interested in. But lately, I have come to the realization that passion (along with talent, of course) may still not be enough. You have to have a high energy level. There are people in our business who are smart, capable, talented, and passionate, and they STILL don’t get anything done. What’s missing? Energy! They just don’t have the juice to go at it. And any signs that you see early on with a new employee that say “low energy” should not be ignored. Because the simple fact is that this is something you are not going to be able to change in the person, ever. There are some classic signs of low energy. Here they are: The person is constantly late. Late to work, late for appointments, late for meetings. He or she can’t get up, can’t remember, etc. Maybe the person is depressed? Or maybe they just don’t have the “umph” to get going without someone prodding them? I don’t know. The person is a slob. Their dress, appearance, car, desk, etc. are all a mess. Everything is too much trouble to do right the first time. “Never time to do it right but always time to do it over,” is the mantra. The person moves slowly. They walk slowly, move slowly, and drive slowly. We’ve all seen these people. They are very frustrating for the highly motivated individuals who employ them. Nothing drives me madder than someone who plasters themselves against the wall when I come by. And though many might say I am too aggressive as a driver, it tells me something when I see people drive. If they are timid, stop on entrance ramps instead of merging, and pull out into traffic without giving it the gas required, they are telling me they have low energy. The person makes too many excuses. Excuses for missed deadlines, excuses for why something’s not done, excuses for why they aren’t prepared. These excuses are all good signs that the energy just isn’t there. The person has no outside interests. They may be passionate about their discipline, but that’s it. They are too tired to ever go out, they don’t leave the house on weekends, and don’t have many friends. It’s all too much trouble! No energy—can’t get away from the TV, can’t get off the Internet! I have been saying for some time that A/E and environmental firms need to change the way they think about staff turnover. Not all turnover is bad. Most firms probably need more of it, not less of it. But where we need it is early in the employee’s employment with us, not later. Later on, we have too much invested and the employee has been done a disservice as well. We need to figure out who is going to make it— and who isn’t— within the first year of employment, if not sooner. The fact is that we are all carrying too many people who will never make it. We should have been able to spot this early on. Maybe we did, but if so, we ignored it. Instead, we need to take action and go find someone else. There’s no room for low-energy people in this business! Now that I got that off my chest, who’d like a nice, ice-cold Jolt Cola? Let’s go DO something. Originally published 3/22/2004

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