Recently, I was asked to speak to students at a local high school about how they can better prepare themselves for the workforce.
If there’s one thing that I’m passionate about, besides Steeler’s football, it’s developing others. And I saw this as an opportunity to have the same conversation with them that I’ll one day have with my kids when they’re old enough.
I know something about exceptional employees, I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by them at Service Express. Through the years, I’ve also sat through my share of bad interviews, and have also had tough conversations with employees who didn’t turn out to be the right fit for our performance-driven culture.
Based on my experience, here are 10 characteristics of great employees that I’ve identified:
1. Don’t wait for a title or compensation to do something.
Jerry Rice said “today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”
2. Solve problems.
Fix things that are broken. The tough things that others aren’t willing to tackle. The path to success is a difficult one for those who focus their energy on the mundane tasks that anyone can do. Those who create value are the ones who fix the big problems that companies face.
3. Be an Opportunist.
I once read a funny saying that I thought was spot-on. “Dear Pessimist, Realist and Optimist, while you were arguing over the glass, I drank the water.” Too many organizations are filled with people who talk but don’t execute. Identify opportunities and then go all in.
4. Earn it.
Don’t ever adopt a mindset of entitlement. We all know that we’re worth something, but we aren’t owed anything. Even as President of Service Express, I have scorecards and ROIs that measure how I’m doing. I may be President of Service Express, but I’ll never rest on my laurels. I know that each day I must continue to earn my title for the owners and for my employees. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!
5. Don’t show up for a paycheck.
Show up because you’re passionate about what you do, who you work for, and you believe in your product or service. The money will follow.
Don’t wait for the timing or circumstances to be just right, they rarely are. Learn to make the best decisions you can then activate.
7. Become a people person.
And I don’t mean socialize more. Intentionally surround yourself with the right people. “A” players. People who will inspire you to be better and achieve better results. Then invest in other people and treat everyone with respect.
Leaders are learners. Read books and magazines, listen to CD’s, attend a seminar or a training course, blog, and network with other professionals and share best practices. Meet with others in your business to gain perspective.
9. Be yourself.
You bring something unique and valuable. It makes you different. Don’t try to fit a mold, if you do you’ll find yourself expending all your energy trying to be someone that you’re not and neglecting the value that you bring. And ultimately, you’ll be found out eventually anyway because we all revert back to who we are. Find someone who appreciates you for being you.
10. Own it.
Your successes and your failures. In interviews, I listen intently as to how others describe their failures. Do they talk about what they did, how they learned, and how they became better, or do they blame a boss, coworker or a company. Everyone has failures and successes. Leaders own them and become better.