10 Characteristics of a Great Employee

Awhile ago, 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.

6.     Move.

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.

8.     Learn.

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.

  • Jackie Huie

    Nice job Ron. I agree with all strategies and just created an “Own It’ mission for the year.

  • Appraisalsbyhorton

    Hi Ron:
    I just saw your connection on Linkedin and was facinated with your example of a Great Employee. I agree 100%. I have tried to follow pretty much those examples over the past 40 years working for a Real Estate Broker, then learning to operate my own business Don Horton & Son Inc. Realtors for 25 years. Made mistakes like we all do but I don’t blame others. I destiny is within me. So far not done too bad. 73 now and keep on working. Loving it.
    Don Horton Owosso MI

  • dbnarizona

    Ron’s comments are very accurate. I have been selling for many years. I have had phenomenal successes and several failures. Too often we tend to blame other things, but in reality success or failure comes down to the individual. When the individual takes ownership of the failure and learns from it, that is where I think we grow as a person. This allows us to minimize our failures and grow our success. I don’t know how old Ron is, but his wisdom is beyond his years.

    Thank you for reminding me where success really comes from.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maria.christian.397 Maria Christian

    Excellent analysis. I love Jerry Rice, but I believe that Les Brown is the originator of that quote. I’ve used it as my philosophy for quite some time.

  • Garry Nemoy

    As I always told my daughters: You better like what you do because you have to get up everyday and do it. The money is not as importanat as what you do. The money will follow in time.

  • Scott Pohler

    I particularly like “Earn It” and “Own It” as people tend to forget these in my opinion. As a culture, we’ve developed this sense of entitlement and people are always quick to pass the blame when they make a mistake. I value the opportunity to learn from my mistakes as they often help lead to success further down the road. It’s also very rewarding to grow as a person, learn new skills along the way, and accomplish personal goals; instead of waiting and hoping that someone else will push us along. Good read!

  • Rick Leigh

    #1 – I may have failed an interview when asked for my compensation requirements. I replied with what I was making in my last position. I should have replied with how I really felt. I’ve never cared about a title or pay. I just want to do what I love, Provide for my family, and have the ability to grow in my carrier. The rest will fall into place.