The 4 Stages of Great Employees


Great employees are not born, they’re self-made.  I can spot them a mile away, even when they’re brand new, fresh out of college.  They exhibit traits and work habits that distinguish them from the average.   They begin a journey with four very distinct stages; they are “great employees” at each stage, but add very different value to my team with each progression.

Stage 1: The Hard Worker — “how should I do it?”hard worker

The Hard Worker is always on-time, very focused on her job, and exceedingly attentive to detail.  In this stage, they want to learn “the how” of their job.  As such, they’re a bit time-consuming to mentor, but, once shown the ropes a few times, can repeat the function of their role very autonomously, and with high quality and reliability.

Stage 2: The Can-Doer — “what do I need to do?”Can doer

The Can-Doer is pretty self-sufficient once directed; they either already know “the how” of their job or have sufficient intuition to figure it out; they just need to be told what needs to get done and their typical response is: “can do!”  The Can-Doer is a dependable employee who works very well off of task lists.  He or She takes much less time to manage from the onset.

Stage 3: The Driver — “why do we need to do something?”driver

We all know these people: the Drivers.  They’re the people in the company who know all of the inner workings of the business and where “all the bodies are buried.”  These rare employees of greatness need only be told why there’s a problem or opportunity and they’re off to the races figuring out whom to tap in the organization, which systems need to be modified, and what special favors need to be leveraged to get the job done.  If you want to know who these people are, just ask yourself this: when the company has a critical initiative that needs to be addressed, who is called upon to be involved?  The names you come up with are probably “the Same Ten People” (the “STP”) the very vast majority of the time.

Stage 4: The Successor — “I’m implementing a concept that will benefit all!”


Where do graduates of the STP club move to?  The answer: an even more rare club of employee you deem your Successor.  Your Successor is your right hand, they’re the “jack of all trades” who independently identifies opportunities, knows why they’re critical to the business, what needs to happen to address them, and how to get it done.  What do you need to tell them?  Nothing.  This is the same young man or young woman who arrived years earlier at your office step as a Hard Worker, eager to learn and work hard.  And, now, they’re not only your right hand, they’re who you’re leaving the keys to when you depart.

A question we might all ask ourselves is: if someone were to ask my boss, which of those four am I?

This article was featured on Wired’s Innovation Insights blog available here.

4 thoughts on “The 4 Stages of Great Employees

    • That’s a great point, Julie. It’s amazing to me how you can tell greatness quite early: there’s a very clear desire to excel and work hard. I suspect that you can spot that within the first few days of school.

  1. Nice post Bassam! This is a great simple progression for how to mature in your ability to execute. I’m definitely going to be referencing this concept into my mentoring in the future. Thanks 🙂

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