7 Signs of an Awesome Employee

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When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute." ~ Simon Sinek ~

Most employers, when asked what they look for in a potential new hire, will bring up attitude. Many will rate attitude as important, if not more so than ability, work skills and technical knowledge. While the actual skills needed to perform a job can usually be taught the soft skills, attitude and emotional intelligence are more nebulous and difficult to change. As they become more aware of the importance of these crucial people skills, employers today are increasingly on the lookout for candidates that have the right attitude and people skills first and are trainable for the other skills second.

Here are some of the top 7 traits that define what makes an employee stand out.

High degree of emotional intelligence

People who are aware of themselves and how they impact others around them are also more attuned to the emotions of those around them. Their interactions with others are more likely to be based on respect and consideration for the other person. Because of this they develop strong positive working relationships with those they are working with. This builds teamwork, loyalty and increases the capacity and efficiency of the organization.

Willingness to Speak up and be Heard

While not feeling the need to speak just to hear their own voice, excellent employees speak up when they feel there is a need to, especially if nobody else is talking about an important issue. Knowing when and how to bring up an issue allows them to broach sensitive issues that scare others away. They sense when an issue can be brought up publicly and when it is best left to private conversation. Their skills at asking questions with sensitivity allow them to ask without offending and putting others on the defensive.

Able to Focus on What is Important

Valued employees have the ability to focus on the job at hand without being distracted by bright shiny objects or minor distractions that throw others off. They are able to discern what is important, in what order and have the ability to priorize. Their self-awareness helps set time aside for the most important tasks when they are functioning at their peak. While they are able to focus, their strong people skills keeps them from being rude or insensitive to colleagues disrupting them when working on an important and timely task.

Confident but Not Egotistical

Great employees are confident in their abilities; but having their ego in check they don't feel the need to let others know how good they are. They are patient with others who need their help and don't put others, who have less talent and ability, down. This approachable side of their personality makes others feel comfortable coming to them with issues and concerns that they might not otherwise bring up.

Never Say "It's not my job or my problem"

Exceptional employees will not walk past a problem or something they could help with because it is not in their job description. They see their role as helping in any manner they are able to and are always willing to give of their time and knowledge. They view their role as larger than their job description and look for ways they can contribute to the organization. When they see something that needs to be done, they step up and help out.

Know When to Have Fun and When to be Serious

Great employees help lighten up the workplace with their sense of humour, when appropriate, but also know when it is time to be serious and get down to business. They have a strong sense of timing and what is appropriate and needed at the time. When a coworker is feeling down or struggling, they are the first ones to offer a listening ear, words of encouragement or condolence. Their awareness of others allows them to find the right words and convey the right message of support and caring to coworkers struggling to cope with personal situations.

Always Looking for Ways to Improve

The most valued employees are never satisfied with the status quo. They are always looking to improve themselves and their environment. They will be the first to come up with suggestions and ideas on how to improve their work environment and will take initiative to make it happen. Change to them is seen as a positive, an opportunity to improve. Many staff in organizations will see any change as negative, as a threat to their comfort level. The exceptional employee who embraces change and looks forward to it is a great ally to management. They can be a great asset in helping overcome the resistance that many will have to change.

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About the author

Harvey Deutschendorf

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, internationally published author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to His book THE OTHER KIND OF SMART, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success has been published in 4 languages. Harvey writes for FAST COMPANY and has a monthly column with HRPROFESSIONALS MAGAZINE. You can follow him on Twitter @theeiguy