Steven's Blog

Four Characteristics of a Great Employee

I am often asked what separates great employees from the merely good and mediocre. My answer frequently surprises. Below are four characteristics of a great employee.

1. Fails frequently

To achieve success, you have to be willing to fail. IBM’s Thomas Watson was once famously asked how to increase the frequency of success, to which he responded: “increase your rate of failure.” Employees who view failure as a permanent state and mark against them will be loath to take a risk or learn something new. An employee who views failure as learning will rapidly increase his or her capabilities. The best companies allow their employees to make mistakes–only not make the same one twice!

2. Is disloyal

Don't confuse disloyalty with treachery. These are not the same things. Click To Tweet

Treacherous employees seek to damage their employers for their own ends. Disloyal employees feel untethered to their employers, confident they can always get good work elsewhere whenever they want and have no qualms doing so. Employees who think they are best off sticking with your company because they are afraid to leave, disliking their jobs will be with you forever and perform only the minimum necessary. The disloyal however stay with a company because they want to stay and are among the most committed. They become the stars. Don’t insist on loyalty, but make your company the kind where the best want to stay.

3. Doesn’t care what others think

Employees who worry too much about what others will think to fail to propose anything new or different for fear of being mocked, rejected or despised. The best don’t care what others think and come up with the contrarian ideas and innovations that push the business forward. Overemphasis on collegiality and congeniality counters progress. Need for external validation inhibits personal growth. The best employees have a healthy ego and sense of self-worth despite how others may respond to them. They ultimately become the leaders among their peers.

4. Has little interest in saving money

Frugality, cost-cutting and skimping may save pennies, but increased value earns dollars. The best employees seek to improve profit by focusing on the revenues side of the equation. Talk about how to squeeze costs will put the best employees to sleep. Engage people in a discussion about how to increase the price by increasing value to the customers, and your best employees will come to life.

What do you seek in your employees?

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