6 Traits That Make Great Employees
Many of us have had multiple jobs and careers throughout our lives and have had many different experiences with skill at the job, bosses, co-workers, environment etc. However, what we’d like to focus on today are you as an employee and nothing else. If you were to strip away your skills, education and expertise and also strip away the influence of your coworkers, environment and bosses, whether that be bad or good, all you are left with is your personality, beliefs and values.
Obviously, we know that you need your skills, education and expertise to be an awesome employee. No matter how awesome any of us think we are as employees we won’t be awesome at something we know nothing about. Let’s just put that aside for now.
When left with only how you are as a person who wants to be great at their job and advance in your career, I have distilled this down into 5 traits. All of these traits are discussed in detail in many other books but let’s just try to be concise. It’s not easy to change who you are so let’s start there:
Trait #1: You embrace change
There are seemingly millions of books on change, change management and self-improvement but it all boils down to you being able to accept changes at work. If you can’t do that, well, then… your f@©ked!
Hey, we will all vent when big changes happen sometimes, Lord knows I did. But keep it inside or talk to family or friends to help you cope. Deal with it quick and then move forward. You can’t go back to the past, so you have to make the best of moving forward.
Any business is trying to do what is best for the company so continually look for ways where change and improvement makes sense and be a champion of those changes. It’s much easier to try to help the change than to fight it. Trust me, your boss will notice and if your peers respect you it will help them jump on board too.
Trait #2: You show you care
There is so much to be said about showing up to work on time each day with a clean shirt and a smile. We often forget that we are lucky to have jobs and that somebody else hired us to be part of their company. This is most often lost in big corporations but I’ve seen it in small restaurants and bars I have worked at in the past as well.
Being late or missing and unprepared for work is an easy indication that you don’t give a shit. Place your vanity to the side for a while and be engaged in your job and those you work with. You choose: be unhappy and wonder why you never get further, or care about your job and you’ll be advancing in your career in no time.
Half the battle here is not letting the negative people around suck you in to their vacuum of crap. If someone says, “Man… this sucks…” you can choose to join their crap and say that does suck, or you can say “Ok, what can we do to change that thing that you think sucks here, I’ll help.”
You may also be in an early job in your career that may not be your dream job. That is no excuse for not caring and being a good worker.
Trait #3: You are bold and confident
This may seem silly or crazy, depending how you look at it, but the best employees are ones that look to push the business forward, take bold leaps of faith and are confident that they are doing the right thing. It is easy to become part of the machine, especially in large companies and blend in and do a good job. Exceptional employees don’t settle for a good job though. Exceptional employees want to make a bigger difference and be noticed.
The most common examples I have seen of excellent bold employees are:
- They are always looking for process and workplace improvements and bring a plan forward to leaders to get implemented and how you can help. Great employees don’t settle for doing things “because they have always been done that way”.
- They set bold goals personally and for projects they are part of and drive to those goals. Don’t say you want to increase web traffic by 20% with a new website plan, a bold employee would say they would increase it 2000%. Even if they fail, the effort and boldness will be noted. (Side note: Bold people fail all the time and get better from it.)
- They have no fear of repercussions from leadership of the company. They know that they are always working in the best interest of the company and if that gets them in trouble that this was probably not the company for them. Be confident in yourself and your decisions. They will not always be perfect but you will move on and learn.
Trait #4: You manage yourself and do what you say you will do
This really all comes down to integrity. You hear this all the time, but when you say you are going to do something it is then your job to do that task. If you always wait for someone else to manage you, provide something to you or ask you for something you will never get anything done. Someone else=you.
Personally, as a leader, nothing annoys me more from an employee than having to follow up and ask about something they said they would do after the deadline passes. Leaders are reasonable people(except bad ones), so if you need more time or help then ask for it and inform those involved. That is your responsibility, not anyone else’s. You have to manage your tasks, time and keep all involved informed.
Please don’t make people relying on responsible for finding out what is going on with something you said you would do. This is a major job fail. Outside of being rude, inappropriate or harassing at work this is my #1 reason for a poor performance review or termination. When you commit to something you are 100% accountable to complete that task. No exceptions, no excuses.
Trait #5: You show compassion to others and are humble
The first 4 were very focused on you as an individual and what you can do to become a better person and employee. However, this trait is all about how you treat and respect the people around you. I have found this to be the trait that can be the largest downfall of employees and leaders at companies. We can easily get caught up on being “experts in our field”, or “quarterly deliverables”, and forget that without the people around us we are not going to be successful. The command and control style of leadership that was a remnant from the wars from WWII–Vietnam isn’t accepted anymore and we are all stronger people by using caring and respect as a motivator versus fear. Ok, that’s my idea, now what do I mean.
A great employee – strike that, a great person – will always try to listen, help and care for people who are in their life. As per above, it is easy to stay buried in work and just treat work like a mindless function, but aren’t your memories of the best jobs you have had about amazing and fun people around you? Take the time to get to know your co-workers. Be patient with those whose personalities conflict with yours. Realize that everyone sees things differently. Smile at people.
When it comes to work, you should always be humble and grateful to those who helped you get there, even if they didn’t nail it by your standards. In performance reviews you can boast about your skills and what you did but don’t disrespect others. You and the people around you will be much happier in a respectful environment.
The best way to look at this is to see your co-workers as a family. You don’t like all the things they say or do, but at the end of the day you care for them and you listen and try to help them. We all know that you spend more time with the people you work with than your family so isn’t worth trying to get along with them for your sanity and the improvement of your work life?
Trait #6: You always try to learn and make yourself a better person
When I started this article I actually had thought I’d only have 5 traits to keep it short, but I soon realised I was not quite capturing what I feel is a magical trait in great employees and great people. The willingness to keep learning and the willingness to be a better person and making changes you need in your life to make this happen. Using self-assessment and acting on that assessment for positive change is one of the most important things you can do in your life.
There is always a better way to do most anything. The sooner you realise this is true, the better off you will be. I’m not saying you should spend every waking moment trying better every aspect of your life. I walk about as good as I want to and I’m good with not being the best at locking my front door.
We should always focus on top priorities like:
- Being an awesome parent
- Being better for your life-partner
- Being a better friend
- Being a better person by releasing judgement, stereotypes and listening and understanding
As it relates to work we may have priorities like:
- Being more comfortable presenting and talking in larger groups
- Learning to manage people and projects
- Upgrading skills. (I was a wiz at Macromedia Director but that didn’t last too long, be ready)
- How to communicate with different personalities and people
Obviously, that list would be different for all of us but I hope you get the point. The key to all of this is to work on always trying to get better at whatever you do and to not be scared to try something new and step out of your comfort zone. This doesn’t come naturally to many people so it is important that you keep trying and set goals for you to get better. Your leaders will notice that you always work to get better and you will start advancing faster in your career.
There are countless ways to be a great employee and your skills and education are the tools that set you up to start your career. To gain success in your career over the years you will not only need the skills you have, you will need to have the traits aforementioned that will allow you to grow as a person and an exceptional employee.
Everyone will have a different balance of these traits but it is important to always look at yourself and see where you could be better. Not only will you be better, your family, friends and work will be better and that makes the whole planet better. Best of luck on your journey.
Partner and Director, Digital at Post+Beam