What kind of employee are you?

MANILA, Philippines – It really does seem like an employee can be categorized into one of three boxes.

My first employer, Procter and Gamble, had a three-level performance rating system — you were either rated a “1” (top 10 to 15 percent), a “2” or a “3.” I then went to work for another great company, Coca-Cola, and they too had a three-level rating system for performance. And now I work for a third highly regarded multinational with a pedigree for employee development, and BAT also has a three-level rating system!

Still not convinced it can be so simple?

A dear friend of mine, Tarek Farahat, a CEO in Brazil, once sent a fabulous note to his employees. In it, he explained that he sees basically “three kinds of people coming to him on the business.” His insights were just outstanding:

“Less for more” people: These people come to you for more budget, promise you more in return, and end up doing less than was originally promised! So, not a good deal. You give them more than budgeted — and they still miss the original target! These people are at the bottom of the organization and the first to go when a restructuring comes.

“More for more” people: These are people who come to you for more budget, promise you more in return, and then give you exactly what they promised. These folks are okay and the backbone of any organization.
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“More for less” people: These are the exceptional players in the company. They come to you with budget savings and give you money back! And on top of that, they over-deliver their original goals. So they give you more results with less money! These are your stars.

This always stuck with me. So simple, yet so true. And I always strived to be a “more for less” person. Underspend my budgets, over-deliver topline sales.

But the final kicker in this “There are only three kinds of employees” came from a famous athlete, an acquaintance of mine, Nadia Comaneci. For those of you who don’t know Nadia’s story, she is the Romanian gymnast who earned the first perfect-10 score in an Olympics. She went on to win gold in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics and is considered the greatest gymnast ever.

I have always believed that we as businesspeople can learn from all walks of life — not only from businesspeople. What it takes to make it to the top of any company is conceptually similar to being the best in the world of sports. So I can learn from Nadia Comaneci.

She was telling a story once, that she only saw “three kinds of girls in the gym.” It’s a wonderful story and here is how it goes:

“There are only three kinds of girls (or boys, for that matter) in the gym. The first one, when her coach asks her to do 10 repetitions on the parallel bars, does only seven and stops. She decides ‘seven is enough’ and it is still plenty. These girls never win and I never worried about them in competition. The second type of girl, when her coach tells her to do 10 repeats on the bars, does the 10. These girls win occasionally but not often and I rarely gave them a second glance. And then there is the third type. The coach asks them to do 10 repetitions and they do 15 instead! This is the group I was in. In fact, I was the only one I know in this group. And that’s why I won more gold than anyone else, and why I scored a perfect 10.”

Who are we to argue with an Olympic great? Gyms mimic life. The gym is just a microcosm of any company, of any society.

So, take a look at your track record. Look at it from your boss’ perspective. Which group are you really in?

It’s a matter of choice. We all end up where we choose to be.