Tom wasn’t a “hi po.” That term wasn’t invented back in
the mid-1970s when he got out of college and went to work. Back then they called
people like Tom, “fast trackers.”
He set the record for being promoted from the Management Trainee program to
Assistant Manager. He moved soon to Manager in a small facility, followed by a
stint at corporate headquarters. Regional Manager was next. He was less than
He’s in his early fifties now. Tom has changed companies three times, but
he’s still about where he was twenty-five years ago. What happened?
One thing was that Tom was promoted and moved so fast in the beginning that
he never had to clean up the messes he made. He developed some bad habits, but
he could have undone them with a little work.
More seriously, Tom started acting like he was entitled to keep moving up.
When he got his first “Meets Expectations” review, he decided that his boss was
jealous. When he was passed over for promotion the first time, he wrote it off
to “politics.” When his numbers came in below targets he blamed the economy or
the weather or … you get the picture.
First, Tom stopped on concentrating on improving performance and started
concentrating on himself and what he was “due.” After a while he was viewing his
life in the rear view mirror, not really sure what had happened.
Tom like to tell the young “hi pos” in the company about his early career.
He’s like the high school sports star who constantly tells other people about
the big game and how he saved the day. The hi pos avoid Tom. They know what
happened and they swear they won’t let it happen to them.
But it will, at least to some of them. Every generation has some people who
show great promise, perform well for a while and then just seem to lose
It doesn’t happen all at once, but slowly and subtly. First there’s a day
when you don’t give your best and you realize that no one noticed. That makes it
easier to coast a little the next day. For a while it seems to work because
you’ve built a reputation, but then there’s that “meets expectations” review or
the promotion someone else gets. One day you realize that you now have the
reputation of a “coaster,” and it will take a lot of work to change that.
Boss’s Bottom Line
The only way to be sure you don’t wind up like Tom is to work hard every day
and review your performance every day and keep working at getting better. When
you concentrate on performance and growth, there’s no time to wallow in
self-congratulation and no incentive to start coasting.