To explain, she picks up a piece of paper and draws a line across it. She shades an area below the left end of the line.
â€œWhen you start the job, whatever it is, you have to find out who the secretary is, where the bathrooms are, who your teammates are,â€ she says. â€œTrust me, for a lot of time you are operating below zero.â€
She then points to the middle stretch of the line.
â€œThis is when most people want to leave a job,â€ she adds. â€œThey say: â€˜Iâ€™m done. I know everything. Iâ€™m done.â€™ But think about that. If you left there, basically all this area under the curve, which is negative, which is take-away, you owe the company all of that. Then you do this for six more months, and you can operate the place smoothly, but you havenâ€™t really transformed it in the ways that you can help to transform it.â€
She starts shading an area above the line to the right. That represents what a manager is expected to contribute â€” what to give back â€” after absorbing all of the training and experience that exists below the left side of the line. The balance amounts to â€œgetting to zero.â€
â€œYou can only leave after you put in as much above the curve as under the curve. Unfortunately, that usually takes more than a day, and it takes a couple years,â€ Ms. Burns says. â€œPeople would come in to me and say: â€˜You put me in this developmental assignment. I know how to run the place now. Thank you. Can I go to the next one?â€™ I say: â€˜Well, how about all the stuff that you owe us? How about getting settled in for a little while longer and then start to transform it?â€™ â€