How can you tell when an employee has maxed out?

Learning your employees’ limits

I thought a lot about this many years ago, and this little scenario came to mind. Let’s say I hire a brand new employee into my company. I go to them and ask them to go down this road and make it fast. They agree and start walking.

I tell them that I need them to move faster, so they start jogging. They need to move even faster, so they start running. They need to go faster still, and by this point, they’re running as hard as they can. I tell them that it’s not fast enough, I need them to go faster!

The employee then turns to me and says, “Dave, you’re crazy. I can’t run any faster! Don’t you see how fast I’m running?”

That’s how you know that an employee has maxed out.

Thinking of the bigger picture

Notice that I didn’t put a lot of parameters on exactly how to go faster, I just said to go faster. What would an employee that’s not maxed out do in this situation?

They’d likely say “Hey, wait for a second, let me go get a bicycle!” So they walk over and get on a bicycle, and now they’re going even faster.

When I tell this employee to go faster, they think bigger and get a motorcycle. Then they end up in a car, then a jet plane, and, eventually, the space shuttle. That employee is thinking much farther ahead.

When you ask an employee to be more productive, and they tell you that they’re doing as much as they can, that employee is maxed out. They’ve hit their limit, and that’s as far as they’re going to get.

If they think larger and find ways to change the system to get more work accomplished, you’ll know that those are the employees you want by your side as you grow the company.

Think about your current batch of employees. Think about the times you’ve asked them to take on additional work and they tell you that there’s no possible way that they can take on more.

That’s perfectly fine, we need those workers to do the work. Those employees are the foundation of any company, but they’re not going to be your Vice President. They won’t be the ones that you can count on to take your company to the next level.

Set a lofty goal for your company

Don’t be afraid to set a B.H.A.G., or a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. You should have these every once in a while.

Set a goal of taking on an additional 50 clients or posting a 25% profit, and work your way back into that. The employees that see the bigger picture and take on additional work so you can attain your Big Hairy Audacious Goals are the ones that are going to be with you for the long haul.

I hope this scenario helps you identify which workers to keep by your side as you grow your business.