Leading a team is one of the awesome roles in the management journey. All the oars pulling together. Each one doing their part to achieve a common goal.
Yeah, that looks good on paper.
And it has its moments.
But any time people are involved, it can get clunky. And funky. At any time. When you least expect it.
Intellectually, you understand the value of diverse skills and perspectives.
But wouldn’t it be easier if everyone was more like you?
Not really. Diversity is important. Maybe critical. But managing diversity is the leader’s role.
While skills and backgrounds may be different, there are some common elements that you can look for in your employees. These are the attributes that are common to A Players. Dream employees.
And let me state the obvious — if you work for someone else, these are attributes that your boss should expect to see in you. If some of them sound foreign, you may have some work to do.
Putting it another way, unless you are the CEO, these are characteristics that you want people to recognize in you. Not just your boss, but others in your organization.
What they see in your actions.
What they experience when they work with you.
Then you know it is part of your brand.
The Eleven Attributes of Great Employees
The following eleven attributes are what you should be looking for in your dream employees.
If you find the following attributes in a person, hire them. Right away. Now. Whether a job opening exists or not.
If they show up in existing employees, you’ve identified people you need to invest in. People you can build around.
Like any effective leadership practice, before you look at others, you have to look at yourself first. With a critical eye.
“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”
These eleven attributes are the characteristics that others need to see in you. So take a critical look in the mirror. With that in mind, I’ve written these from your perspective.
- You have a focus on the Leadership Trifecta
These are three elements that I think all leaders need to keep at the forefront of the minds — and their activities.
Intentionality — you are intentional about why you do what you do. You know your priorities and your responsibilities. You take ownership of your time and are committed to results.
Clarity — you seek to ensure clear communications with others. Whether you are speaking or are spoken to, you seek to create effective two-way communications. You ask questions to clarify, listen actively, and confirm understanding.
Alignment — you understand the power of alignment from top to bottom, and side to side, in the organization. You seek to inform and clarify in order to maintain alignment and break down any operating silos on your team, or between your team and others.
2. You take responsibility
You take responsibility, not only for those tasks assigned to you, but for your performance, your results and your attitude. Period. You don’t point fingers, and you don’t blame others. You don’t have a victim mentality, and no one will EVER consider you an “Eeyore.” You don’t drop problems into your boss’s lap, but offer solutions, and when appropriate, you pivot and just get it done. You take ownership of your past results and your current responsibilities.
3. You are trustworthy
If you have to have a personal mantra, let it be that you Do What You Say You Will Do. You are not a source of gossip or drama. You are honest and transparent, but you use discretion when sharing any kind of sensitive or confidential information. You don’t make promises you can’t keep. When you say you will do something, others don’t feel the need to write it down. They know it will happen. Like you said it would. When you said it would. Let this be part of your leadership brand and your personal brand. DWYSYWD!!!
4. You have high level of self-awareness
Based on the work of Tasha Eurich, the author of Insight, we know that most people are delusional when it comes to their own level of self-awareness. At least 95% of the more than fifteen-thousand survey respondents believed they had a high level of self-awareness. When tested, the number was less than 15%. The best employees know their strengths and weaknesses, and how they are experienced by others. Studies also suggest that the higher people go in an organization, the lower the level of self-awareness. Don’t assume that you’re the enlightened exception. You seek feedback from people who will be honest with you. You identify what triggers you and any blind spots you have.
5. You are driven, but not at the expense of others.
You pursue your goals with focused energy. However, you don’t leave dead bodies in your wake. You refuse to step on someone else to achieve your success. This reinforces the idea that you can be trusted, and you aren’t a source of dysfunction on the team. Your drive for achievement and results is kept in perspective by humility, and not fueled by arrogance. You appreciate and recognize the contribution of others. You understand that the world doesn’t revolve around you.
6. Your team improves under your leadership
A good leader will grow the people on his or her team. You should have a track record of team members developing their skills and their capabilities while on your team. However, sometimes you’ll have someone who is not a fit or whom the business has simply outgrown. If they haven’t responded to being “coached up”, you selectively “coach them out” and upgrade the talent on your team.
7. You have a strong moral compass
Integrity is important to you. When faced with a difficult decision, or a challenging circumstance, you seek to do the right thing. When you are a leader, the spotlight is always on you. People are watching. Always. You need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror every day. Don’t compromise your honor or your integrity.
8. You have a passion for learning and improving
You have a desire to learn, but not just for learning’s sake. You want to apply what you learn, so that you get better. Daily. Interaction by interaction. You are open to feedback and recommendations of resources that can expand your knowledge, skillset and enhance your performance. Some people are great at winging it. For a while. Over the long term, being intentional about your own growth is key to your success and continued upward trajectory. The more you know, the more you appreciate how much you still have to learn.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” — Maya Angelou
9. You bring positive energy to your work
You tackle your tasks with a can-do attitude. While you maintain a realistic approach and are not prone to overcommit yourself or your team — you do err on the side of optimism. Of accomplishing big goals. Of achieving challenging tasks. The positive energy is infectious and it helps other individuals, and teams of people, to accomplish more than they thought possible.
10. You take initiative
You don’t wait for things to be assigned to you before taking action. You don’t step on other people’s toes in the process; but if something is broken, you fix it. If a customer has a need, you address it. If a colleague needs encouragement or a suggestion, you provide the support. In short, you look for opportunities to deliver value to others (and to the organization) and are not limited to responsibilities on a job description. You make sure to follow up with others, to ensure that they don’t get territorial or misinterpret your intentions. When you are a team player, work to establish trust, and are known to do “the right thing,” you have to spend less time dealing with the insecurities of your colleagues.
11. You embrace the chance to be in the arena
This refers to the Teddy Roosevelt quote, “The Man in the Arena.” You want to be in the game. When it counts. You have a willingness to work hard, to pursue passionately, to persist through setbacks, to risk failure, because those are all required to participate in the game. Not a spectator. Not a commentator. But a participant.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt
The big disclaimer: You may have a professional and enlightened boss, who communicates effectively and wants you to grow and succeed. Congratulations, you’re in a minority. Your boss is human, and therefore, flawed. Most leaders want their people to succeed. But many may be blind to you delivering every item on the list above.
Seek to live these attributes and deliver value according to these recommendations. Results will improve. People will love working for you.
Dream Employees Want to Work for the Dream Boss
The “people side” of management is where the greatest challenges exist. People have their own behaviors, motivations and backstories. Baggage. Emotions.
It is also where you find the greatest opportunities.
When done right, it can be incredibly rewarding.
When you have a team of A players, a dream team, it is powerful.
There are specific attributes that you can look for.
When you see those in other people, hire them.
If they’re already on your team, show them the love. Let them know they’re valued.
If you recognize these traits in yourself, keep looking for ways to demonstrate them in the workplace.
And if some of them seem a bit fuzzy, get to work.
Set an example for others. As you do, you’ll attract like-minded people, who want to follow your lead. They want to follow YOU.
You set the example.
All the oars pulling together.
And it’s beautiful. Powerful. Successful.