10 Things Really Amazing Employees Do

by Kevin Daum

As a longtime employer of dozens, I was always grateful to have good employees. It takes a lot to recruit and maintain top talent. Every once in a while special employees come along that just really seem to get it. They drive the entire company forward in ways that were unimaginable. Advancement and reward is never an issue for these rock stars because they understand the power of cause and effect, and only a worthy company can retain them and afford them.

Here are 10 things amazing employees seem to do effortlessly. Here’s how to help your great employees be even more amazing.

1. Enthusiastically Learn All Aspects of Business

They understand they’re part of something bigger and more worthwhile than just their job. They look to learn other areas of the business and be fluent in finance and management so they’ll positively impact multiple areas of the company.

What you can do: Invest in material and seminars on business basics like accounting, marketing, and management so all employees have easy access to learn and grow.

2. Steward the Company

They treat the company as if it were theirs. They look to make prudent decisions about expenses and opportunities with the long-term future of the company in mind. They easily assess risk vs. reward, selflessly when making decisions.

What you can do: Be transparent in your business. The more you share your financials and philosophy, the easier it is for employees to make the right decisions.

3. Generate Viable Opportunities

You don’t have to be in sales or marketing to help a company grow. Strong networkers from all divisions see company growth as a collective effort and constantly keep their eyes open for ways to more than pay for themselves.

What you can do: Make sure all your employees understand your value proposition and can easily identify opportunities. Then reward them openly for their efforts.

4. Resolve Issues Before They Are Issues

My favorite days running companies are when I notice positive change in procedure when I was totally unaware of the need for change. Amazing employees are always looking to improve systems proactively, and they do.

What you can do: Communicate a clear written vision of where the company is going and encourage initiative so people feel safe and empowered to make change.

5. Tell It Like It Is

Amazing employees understand that hiding bad news helps no one. They find kind ways to bring uncomfortable information to the surface, but they DO bring it to the surface. They tell people what’s necessary before major damage is done.

What you can do: Foster an open communication environment where people are not only given permission to tell the truth, but also absolutely required.

6. Demonstrate High Standards, With Low Maintenance

I always feel relaxed when I can trust an employee to perform a task to the same high standards I would expect from myself. Not all can do this without constant attention or difficulty. Amazing employees quietly drive their own high standards.

What you can do: Set the example and the tone for high performance with minimal drama. Publicly reward those who can execute in the same manner.

7. Grow Themselves, and Others

They not only drive their own career but they inspire others to do the same. These employees lead by example in how to advance without creating animosity or resentment. They see and create their perfect future, and also bring others along.

What you can do: Encourage personal development and peer growth through dedicated group time and learning for career advancement.

8. Research, Apply, and Refine

No employer expects people to know everything. In this fast changing world, I choose employees who will learn over those who know. The best employee proactively explores options, takes action and then improves without direction from the top.

What you can do: Invest time in exploration and expansive thinking. Encourage people to explore deep visionary projects with time and reward for the findings.

9. Stimulate Happiness

Amazing employees aren’t always sunshine and roses. They do know how to keep it real. But they understand the dynamics of people, stress, and the blend of work, life and friendship. They are self-aware and able to direct their own path that brings out their best with family, friends and career. They exude positive energy even in stressful times and share it around, making for a happier office.

What you can do: Create an environment where people can openly express themselves. Encourage them to work hard in fulfilling ways and achieve their dreams.

10. Facilitate Amazing Bosses

Amazing employees make me grow as an employer. They self-confidently get their value and help me get mine. They make me want to be worthy of working with somebody of such high caliber, without ever saying it directly of course.

What you can do: Make effort to genuinely show appreciation for any of the behaviors above so people feel their value and will grow to full potential. Then they will do the same for you.

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An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies. @awesomeroar

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The Golden Platter

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When does opportunity show up?

When you least expect it? Do you make it happen? Yes.

I’ve worked with new managers and upcoming leaders for years. Many times I hear “when will it be my turn to do ______?” I’ve never been able to predict when a “newbie” can get to the next level.

But what I have been able to do is this. I always encourage them to keep their eyes open for opportunities – I call them opportunities on golden platters. Those moments when you can step up, take charge, show some leadership, get results, and get noticed.

Just the other day, an up and coming leader met with me and one of my department’s managers. We shared with her she had the opportunity to fill in for another team member – a new area of challenge and learning. She was excited. I told her that this was her opportunity handed to her on the golden platter. We would provide additional training and support. What she did with it was her responsibility. She smiled and let us know she was ready (and thanked us for it).

She took off and has excelled.

What opportunity is facing you right now? You don’t think you have any opportunities? Think again…

* Is there a project team you can volunteer for? You’ll learn a lot about your company and/or a process. You’ll network with other team members. That is valuable time spent!
* Are you leading your team in results? If you are not performing in what is expected, don’t expect advancement. If you aren’t hitting your numbers, you are missing your primary opportunity. Yes, that IS your job.
* Does your company offer online learning? Take advantage of this and build your knowledge and put it into practice as soon as possible.
* Are you a trusted resource on your team, in your department or company? Helping and intentionally collaborating with others is a great opportunity to show how you align your skills, talents, spirit, and heart with your company’s culture.
* Volunteer. Be a great corporate citizen and a giver in your community.

You can make your own opportunities. You can also be prepared to step up and seize golden opportunities when they are presented.

The Aim Frame

In the book, The Competent Leader, Peter Stark & Jane Flaherty discuss how to develop consensus in chapter 13.  One phrase jumped out to me as I read through this great material.  “Focus on the aim frame.”  What they are referring to is that too often in meetings where consensus is sought, participants are focusing on everything but the same goal – the aim frame.  As they write:

“When groups have a difficult problem to resolve and are trying to come to a consensus, it is helpful for the manager to focus the group in the aim frame.  Focusing on the aim frame asks the group two questions.  The first question is “Where does the group want to be with the decision or what is the ideal outcome?”  The second aim frame question is “How do we get there?”

I like this concept.  It’s true!  I’ve seen it at work.  I’ve seen it in relationships.  I’ve seen it in professional sports.

As a manager/leader, think about a team member you lead right now that needs some development.  They need to grow to the next level.  It is so easy as the “boss” to point out shortcomings or, as we like to call them, “opportunities”.  We can call for lists of action plans to address these.  The team member then brings back their action plan, works it, and what do we do?  We call for another round of action plans to address shortcomings.  How do they end up feeling?  Damned if I do/Damned if I don’t.  Without a correction (from you), this employee is at risk of choosing “I don’t” and you lose them.

What if you take Stark’s & Flaherty’s idea of the “aim frame” and work with the team member to ask those 2 critical questions:

  1. Where do you want to be 3-6 months from now (could be a new skill, a mastery of a current duty, etc)?
  2. How do we get you there?

This is realistically setting a specific goal and then creating a plan to get there.  Both of you need to come to a consensus of the goal.  Buy in on both sides is critical.  Are there shortcomings that need to be addressed?  Of course!  But those can be tackled on the way to achieving the goal.  As their manager, you work along side of them coaching them, counseling them, steering them to keep them on track.  But you are keeping the goal in sight.  You are reminding them that the goal can be achieved, but they have to keep up their end of the agreement (so do you!).

How will your team member feel about himself/herself with this approach?  Challenged.  Valued.  Proud (as they achieve steps along the goal path).

How will they feel about you?  Empowered. Valued. Respect.  Trust.
Focus on the aim frame and what the difference it will make in the lives of your team and your own life.

How to Get Your Boss’s Attention

As a manager, there are many times that you need to capture the attention of your boss:

  • You need some help with an issue.
  • You want to increase your staffing.
  • You want to purchase new equipment.
  • You want a raise

The list could go on…

Have you ever found yourself calling a colleague (or your spouse) to whine about how your boss doesn’t listen or pay attention or is never there when you want them to be?  Getting your boss’s attention starts far earlier than most of us realize.  Here are some pointers to help you get heard:

  1. Get Results. If you are not performing…if you are not meeting expectations…if you are missing your goals, then you have your boss’s attention for all of the wrong reasons.  If you want to be heard on what you believe are the truly important issues, then you had better be performing.
  2. Help Them.  Believe it or not, your boss faces his/her own challenges.  Become a trusted resource for them.  Offer to help them with a project.  Listen to them as they talk about what they have on their plate.  If you can take some of that work off of it, you become more valuable to your boss.
  3. Make Them Look Good.  This is closely related to #1.  When you exceed your numbers, your boss looks good.  When your team discovers an efficiency and communicates it out to the company resulting in operational cost cutting, your boss looks good.  When make a positive impact in your community, your boss looks good.
  4. Listen to Them.  Your boss maybe feeling the same way you are.  Be an active listener and help come up with solutions to issues that your boss is facing.  You’ll learn something in this process.

Your boss is human.  You can go far when you employ some or all of these pointers.

Caution:  if you approach your boss with insincerity or a manipulative spirit, it will be revealed.  Integrity says to be genuine in your interactions with your boss.  It will pay off.

Initiative

In Stephen Covey’s bestseller, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he talks about the need for leaders to take the initiative – to be proactive.  He defines initiative as “recognizing our responsibility to make things happen.”  Isn’t that a great definition? 

In some companies, there is an evident culture where initiative can be taken and is expected!  Everyone “owns” the process and customer interactions.  Everyone has skin in the game and finds way to efficiently work and collaborate on innovation.  There is energy.  There is excitement.  There is a definite feeling that the company is moving forward.

Then there are companies where the employees must ask permission to take the next step in established processes.  New ideas rarely come out of the ranks.  The status quo is maintained.  If someone does share an idea, it can quickly get shot down.  Folks normally just keep their heads down and do their jobs.

I personally believe that managers can still take initiative in either situation.  In the first company, it’s easier and expected.  In the second company example, it is a bit more difficult.  But it can happen.

Covey talks about a “circle of influence” in his book.  Initiative should start in the areas you can control.  Primarily, within your department.  You have more control over things than you may realize.

Look around.  If you were to start over with this department, what would you change?  What would you keep doing?  Do you like the personal interaction environment that you work in?  Do you have a negative Nancy or Ned taking over?  Is there a spirit of indifference?  Boredom?

Take initiative.  Try some new things:

  • What does your department produce?  Are you exceeding expectations?  Look at the numbers that your department is evaluated on.  Does everyone on your team understand them?  If not, educate you team on the numbers and story behind those numbers and make it clear.  A knowledgeable team is more effective. 
  • Spend time with each of your team members.  Observe them doing their work.  Ask them why they are doing what they’re doing.  Do they know the purpose behind what they do?  A purpose-filled team becomes more engaged.
  • Discover how what your team produces relates to other departments.  Collaborate with those other departments to help them become more effective as well as your own team.  Produce win-win situations wherever you can.  A collaborative team is more efficient and appreciated.
  • Mentor and build up your team leaders.  Multiply what you know in them.  Challenge them to read and to grow.  Personally invest in their development.  Praise them in public.  Council them in private.  A developed team leader multiplies your results. 
  • Share your successes with fellow managers.  Encourage them to step out and try new ideas.  An encouraging manager is a trusted and valued resource to his/her peers. 

Your boss looks at your results.  Taking initiative to exceed your results will get noticed.  A single department can launch corporate change when you continue to build on your team’s success.

Let me ask again:  do you make things happen?  Or do you watch things happen?  Where will success ultimately land?

You know the answer.