10 Habits of Truly Terrific Employees
Truly terrific employees distinguish themselves from all others in ways that are strikingly apparent to their colleagues and bosses. Much of it is about their behavior and attitude, but it is more than that. They genuinely care about what they do and have pride in their work. Unfortunately, they are way to rare.
Here are ten habits that the best employees exhibit every day. I have met many through consulting projects over the last twenty years. They are exceptional people and a joy to work with. Emulate them and you will move you to the top of the heap. I believe every person has the truly terrific within them, waiting to emerge. As Sly and the Family Stone said in a song, “Everybody is a star!” Do you want to ramp up your career and move ahead? Then picture YOURSELF being terrific, because you are if you choose to be.
10 Habits of Terrific Employees
1. Handle the tasks no one else likes to do and do them well.
Terrific employees can carry a little more than what is theirs to carry. To be one, take responsibility to really earn the money that you are being paid. You have put in a full day’s work. Some studies show that employees waste 50% of their day. As some of my early employers called it, “eight for eight or ten for ten.” Don’t get involved in office politics, conflict, blame, fault-finding, arguments, or poor teamwork. Instead do your job – the complete job, including the hard or less desirable parts and the parts that others have a tendency to ignore, shrug off or refuse.
You immediately begin to stand out as someone who is easy to work with. I am not saying you should automatically step in and do all of the things without comment or pay that nobody else is willing to do . But terrific employees do their share and usually an additional part without complaining, and do it well. You will get appreciated by customers, co-workers, and your boss. Yes, this may in the beginning include tasks like arranging the conference room for the next staff meeting, or making coffee when everyone else drinks it and leaves the coffee pot empty. It could also mean helping the new employee get acclimated or clearing jams in the copy machine even if your pay grade is way above that kind of work.
2. Learn the job and do it well.
This may sound like a “no brainer,” but it’s amazing how many employees don’t know how to handle the basic activities of their job expectations. Or, they do just enough to get by. Terrific employees meet deadlines and commitments, treat people with respect and courtesy, make a quality effort the first time every time, pay attention to communicating well, and cooperate with those who depend on them to do their work in order to do theirs. So learn to do your job extremely well, and if you don’t know something, ask for help. This quote by US President Teddy Roosevelt fits well: “Far and away, the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
3. Know the business and keep your eye on the big picture.
The truly terrific ask, “How does this company make money? What do our customers want and expect from us? What are the benefits of our products and services? How do the systems we rely on work, to allow us to deliver?”
Understand that the job is what you do every day, but also includes learning more in the industry. So, keep your eyes open for new developments in your business specialty or related areas. This awareness of the “bigger picture” will give you access to conversations about current or future needs. This knowledge and perspective translates into credibility and potential for future jobs or roles that require personal initiative. So, when a news story that covers your company or job pops up in the media or in a professional journal, read it, clip it and e-mail a scan of it to your co-workers, team or boss.
4. Keep a “tidy” workspace.
You need your focus on top priorities of the job. This means setting goals and creating plans. It includes being organized and maintaining a professional looking work area. All achievers do this. Disorganization makes it appear that the job is beyond your control. When you leave work, take a few minutes to create a critical “to do” list for the next day or do it the following morning. One truly terrific employee I met had one green folder on his desk with his computer, so I commented on his clean desk. I asked about the folder and he replied enthusiastically, “These are my goals and results! It’s how I make money.”
Avoid that common tendency to get to work just before the time clock strikes “Starting time!” Or having your keys in your hand, ready to go out the door when it strikes “Day’s over!” Too many managers I have known have expressed their frustration that many of their employees didn’t really want to be there; they felt that they’d really been taken for a ride instead of getting employees’ best effort for the full day. (That’s another issue! See my post, 10 Keys to Employee Engagement).
Terrific employees know that an investment of another 15-30 minutes on each side of day can pay off big time in generating results. So they stay engaged when others quit. As a result, they always look like they are excited about the job, which separates them from everyone else.
Realize that the basic but powerful approaches identified so far provide the start for transforming your efforts above and beyond others. Now, in some settings other employees might tease or taunt you for being dedicated. While it takes persistence and determination to stand out, the best employees do it anyway and so can you!
6. Dress professionally and appropriately.
Terrific employees dress well and look sharp. So, don’t do it to impress but because you have pride in yourself. Too many employees look like they just got out of bed when they show up at work. The adage, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” is a good rule of thumb. Wear the types of things that the employees a step or two up the ladder from you are wearing. Your appearance speaks to a desire and capability to take on bigger responsibility. Certainly, you will tend to think bigger, look the part and stand out in a positive way. Motivator Zig Ziglar suggested, “You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in a costume of failure.”
7. Look for ways to save the company money or help make more money.
Companies are in business to make money; it’s as simple as that. The leadership of any organization is always looking for ways to sell more, cut costs and make customers happy. Unfortunately, the higher they get into the ranks of management, the more removed they are from the day-to-day activities in the business. They miss things.
Truly terrific employees aren’t afraid to find the procedures that should have been dropped or changed years ago but continue. Listen for the phrase, “that’s the way it’s always been done.” To add value, you will want to identify areas that managers often don’t see as opportunities to improve the workflow that often appear to be right in front of their eyes. When you bring up a problem or idea provide a written plan for positive change.
8. Form an opinion and have the courage to share it.
As a result of the efforts in the areas described so far, terrific employees are asked for their opinion frequently. They offer it constructively even if it’s in disagreement with others, including the boss. When you do the same, back it up with sound reasoning and facts, which increases your credibility and value as an employee. Your confident, reason-based opinions, even in disagreement, have value, especially when presented respectfully.
Even if overruled, accept it and get on with the job without whining. Your ability to accept a different direction and avoid argument will win points as it demonstrates your willingness to think creatively, and collaborate with others. Mary Anne Radmacher suggested, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”
9. Come prepared.
Every day, come prepared to get things done. The terrific are consistent in making things happen. Manage your time well, and ensure that you have proper tools, knowledge and information needed to perform without delay. By thinking and planning ahead about your goals and tasks, you have a positive mind-set about succeeding in your job. Don’t waste time surfing the net, reading the paper, fretting about a problem, trying to get organized or waiting for the boss to tell you what to do. In contrast, the best work to contribute, the rest work for a paycheck.
10. Take the initiative.
This is a logical extension of several previous characteristics. Many employees look for ways to minimize effort and avoid unpleasant activity. Truly terrific employees see something that needs to be done and move to do it. They seek responsibility, and take on and complete difficult tasks routinely, without resentment. Similarly, they also, take on challenges that others avoid, and solve problems without calling for help all the time from the supervisor or manager. You, too, can choose to demonstrate that you are the kind of employee who is capable of accomplishing more.Terrific employees know that the more they do, the more they are capable of doing.
Bonus #11. Stay marketable.
To be a truly terrific employee you have to manage your own career. Seek to improve your skill level and ability to produce value, and don’t depend on others to take care of it for you. Attend all of the training available and then some. Network with other people to help them and learn from them. In other words, have a plan to get better and maybe even move ahead if that is your desire. As a result, keep learning to tap your unrealized effectiveness, and this eventually will pay off in better performance and opportunities. Author and teacher, Marianne Williamson encouraged this by saying, “Nothing liberates your greatness like the desire to help, the desire to serve.”
Do you want to recharge or reinvent yourself to achieve your goals? Take advantage of this “limited time” complimentary edition of: GoalPower: How to Increase Your Personal Performance and Career Success.
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