As advisors, we talk to our clients about the importance of goals, but all too often, we fail to set our own. It’s been my observation that unless you are clear about what you want in an employee, then you’re unlikely to get the right person.
We had a few experiences in my firm, Mosaic Financial Partners, that caused me to realize that I hadn't defined what I consider a great employee.
If I haven’t made my own desires clear, then it’s difficult for my employees to behave in ways that meet my expectations and standards.
Now that I have defined these expectations, they know what I’m looking for and I can guide them to get more of what I want from each of them, contribute towards making our firm a great place to work, and ultimately attract more clients.
Each of us has a personal responsibility at all times, regardless of who is watching or who is in the office, to strive to be a great employee. In my view, these are the characteristics that define what it takes:
1. Good working skills. A great employee has the abilities needed to do their job, and they constantly look for ways to improve, seeking out training or further education.
2. Dependability. A great employee can be counted on to consistently do what they are supposed to do and more. Shows up on time and stays late when needed. Consistently gives a best effort. Makes sure that the things that need to get done do get done. Consistently follows accepted procedures.
3. Strong work ethic. A great employee gets a lot done in the time and with the resources available. Takes initiative. Uses down time productively. Works with high energy. Attends first to the things carrying the highest importance.
4. Great attitude. Bad attitudes bring everyone down. A great employee helps make work a positive experience for everyone else by having a good spirit about their job, by being pleasant with everyone, being respectful, polite and considerate of others’ feelings. Always says "please" and "thank you." Doesn’t spread office gossip and doesn't dish company dirt.
5. Team player. A great employee gets along well with other employees. Helps to build a positive environment, not only for self but for others. Encourages and supports others. Finds ways to help others when own tasks are done. Proactively shares useful information with co-workers.
6. Deals with problems effectively. When facing a challenging or new situation, a great employee finds effective solutions. Anticipates difficulties, so they can be avoided. Keeps supervisors informed about their own errors or problematic situations or when making decisions that could have impact beyond their own area of responsibility.
7. Takes direction well. A great employee listens carefully and learns quickly. Asks appropriate questions when they don’t understand instructions or what is expected. Takes criticism, direction, and advice gracefully and in a positive spirit, making changes as needed.
8. Enthusiasm. A great employee always exhibits an affirmative, “can do” attitude. Such employees create a positive atmosphere around them and do not say "I cannot." The positive atmosphere in their work space encourages the others to also work well.
9. Honesty & Integrity. A great employee respects the privacy of clients and co-workers. Always tells the truth, even if it could land them in hot water. Readily accepts responsibility for their actions and results.
10. Flexibility and adaptability. A great employee comfortably adjusts to working with different kinds of people, at different kinds of tasks and in different kinds of environments.
You probably have your own list, or perhaps you’d modify this one.
Either way, when you are supervising employees, use your list to determine who is doing well against the standard and who is falling short.
Then, it's your job to help everyone on the team understand how you define what a great employee looks like and to help them become the assets you want them to be.
In any case, we all have a first responsibility to be a great employee ourselves -- to meet our own standards -- and to model that behavior for others.