I get asked a lot, “What do you look for in an employee?” I am sure there are many people more qualified than myself to answer this question, but I will do my best regardless. I have had great employees, decent employees, terrible employees, and everything in between. Some were green and some had experience. At the end of the day, the best employees were not defined by one or two things they excelled at, but rather the attitude and effort put forth, and how they carried themselves (especially through adversity).
First things first, you have to consider the needs you are looking to fulfill with your employee. You must develop distinct goals and objectives for the position, or you are setting both your company and the potential hire up for failure. If you are looking for a general laborer or an extra set of hands, hiring an experienced lead may create issues and unnecessary financial pressures. If you need someone with the capacity to run a project, hiring an inexperienced helper will create frustrations and inefficiencies. This may seem obvious, but when you are hiring you must know exactly why you need help, how much help you need, and what the expectations are for growth (if any). You must minimize the opportunity of failure and maximize potential.
For myself, nothing is more frustrating than a lack of drive or intention. I am not one to delegate unwanted tasks to an employee, require them to do something I am not willing to do, or require them to work harder than I work, but I do want them to keep pace. Think of your work environment as a sports team. If you are the coach, a manager, or a player, who do you want on your team? Is the person constantly taking half-measure the company you want to keep? Are you okay with someone on the team who wants to be the best and competes to do so? Do you want all the teammates to share a common goal, uplift each other, push each other to be the best versions of themselves, and constantly evolve? When I envision a championship team it consists of leaders and teammates who are talented, hard-working, maintain a positive attitude, and lend a helping hand. Motivators who are passionate about what they do and want to be the best. Why shouldn't your business possess these same qualities and attributes?
Every member of your team will not be the most talented player. That is okay and fairly normal. What you do not possess in talent you can make up for with attitude and effort. I would rather go to battle with someone who has heart and work ethic than someone who survives on talent alone. In my opinion talent only takes you so far. When you reach the elite level of any activity, everyone is talented. Everyone is the best of the best and has prepared more than humanly possible to achieve greatness. What differentiates the elite on any given day is who is mentally stronger. Who is willing to sacrifice more and withstand the pain and discomfort. An ideal employee may not be the most talented of the bunch, but they may be the candidate least willing to quit or allow fear to stand in the way of their goals.
We are all only given twenty four hours in a day. They should not all be devoted to work. There needs to be a balance between work, family, hobbies, self-care, and the needs of others. An ideal employee may not be the person with the most time, but the person who is most efficient with their time. If they are organized, focused, and efficient, they will have time outside of work to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle that will contribute to on-the-job success and motivation. What type of mindset and outlook will an employee have who struggles to complete their work during the day and has to spend their own free time playing catchup while sacrificing their personal time? They will eventually resent the situation, the company, and you as an employer.
Simply put, a team needs team players. You cannot create a business or team of accomplished individuals who isolate themselves from everyone else. The term synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This means that a team that works together and creates a unified cohesive front, will be far more productive and successful than each individual’s efforts combined independently of each other. Building a team of a dozen superstars who have strong/independent egos, will be less successful than a team of one or two superstars who have the leadership skills to create an environment that breeds mutual respect and collaboration. A great employee must be able to work as a member of a team.
A poor attitude or a bad seed can be responsible for the collapse of the greatest team or organizations. They can be a cancer to the environment or morale of an organization. You must ensure that each employee on staff has a good attitude. This does not mean that they will walk through the door with a shit-eating grin each morning, but when looking at the big picture they must be content, hungry, driven, motivated, ambitious, and communicative. Remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Lastly for me an employee must be deliberate, driven, and intentional. Nothing drives me crazier than someone who meanders around dragging their feet with their head down. Whatever you do, do it with strong intent, authority, and direction. I do not care if you are paid hourly, salary, or not paid at all, carry yourself with dignity and integrity and stand tall. If you were being recruited for a team or a business, you would put your best foot forward and try your hardest. That should not change once you get your foot in the door. As an employee it does not matter if you are not the most talented, if you make the most mistakes, or if you are the least efficient if you are putting in 100% effort. The effort and intent are what matter, the rest will come with experience.
The perfect employee does not exist. The perfect employer does not exist. Understanding this and approaching every opportunity with a positive attitude and a willingness to be comfortable being uncomfortable will lead to being a great employee. Communicating your wants and needs as an employee are just as important as doing so as an employer. No two people are the same, and in order to have a successful relationship in any modality of life or business, you must be fluid and possess the capacity to ebb and flow or give and take. The traits and characteristics that define a good employee are not much different than what makes a good friend, a good family member, or a good athlete. You must work hard, adapt, be intentional, be efficient, communicate, remain focused and positive, possess empathy, ask for help, and offer help, and be a part of the whole.
- Tyler Grace