Try this as an experiment. The next time you are in your car trying to get somewhere, notice how you feel when traffic is stopped and then notice how differently you feel as the car accelerates down the highway. You may be tempted to conclude that speed feels good but the surprising thing is that you might actually start feeling good when the car is only going about 35 mph. How can that be? 35 mph certainly isn’t speeding.
Now try this. From a dead stop, accelerate sharply and then level off at 35 mph and notice how you feel. I think you’ll find that you felt better a few seconds ago at 30 mph than you now do at 35 mph even though the latter is the faster speed.
Yes, 30 mph on the way to 35 mph feels better than a steady 35 mph. Why? Because what we enjoy is not only the speed but, more importantly, the feeling of acceleration.
This same effect applies to the way employees feel about where their company and their career is heading. As long there is a sense of forward movement, they will tend to stay engaged and satisfied about the company and their position. However, as soon as things feel like they are leveling off, employees are more likely to feel bored, impatient, distracted and hungry for that sense of acceleration. This is when they will tend to disengage and make more careless errors.
How can leaders manage this? They can’t guarantee steady growth indefinitely nor can they offer an accelerated career path that will never plateau.
Not to worry. Remember that we are talking about a feeling, not a fact. In order for employees to stay engaged, they need to feel satisfied with the pace of the company and their position.
Leaders can manage this feeling by communicating their vision of where the company is heading and letting everyone know of incremental advancements that the company is making as they take place. This communicates that things are moving in the right direction.
The same holds true for a person’s feeling about their own position in the company and their chances for advancement. As long as your employees see a path for themselves, are continuing to learn and develop their skills and don’t feel like they are dead ended, they will tend to stay engaged and will identify with the company as a place where they can grow.
Leaders who recognize talent, innovation, contribution and hard work, who take an interest in their employee’s dreams for advancement and show them the path to success can create the sense of forward movement (acceleration) that employees need to stay engaged and productive.
I’d love to hear your comments below about this or any other blog post on the site.