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Three Key Characteristics of Successful Employees

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

By Scott Nichols

Most of my articles have been geared towards upper management and owners, but this month’s article will be for the employees. I want to help you with building yourself up to improve and win in the workforce. (Don’t worry, upper management and owners: There will still be some valuable information – especially if you’re looking to promote or hire.)

I’ve had a few recent conversations with business owners and managers in different industries, and everyone agrees about the difficulty of hiring good staff and keeping them longer than just a few weeks or months. At the same time, I started to reflect on my past work experience, and I identified three characteristics that I think helped me elevate to the next level. Employers are looking for these character traits, and they are important for employees to advance in the workforce today.

So here are the three:

  1. You need to be a problem solver, not a problem deliverer.

Why is this so important and my number one important characteristic? Simple: The person who can solve problems is the person everyone goes to – they are the people who get the promotions and job offers.

Too many people are really, really, and I mean really, good at finding problems. It’s almost like they enjoy finding what’s wrong. I think we all know some who are like this, and every time our phone rings we cringe just a little bit because we know it’s going to be something negative.

The problem isn’t necessarily the issue of them calling with something negative (we need to know what’s going on), but that it’s like homework, and nobody likes homework.  Every time this “person” calls, it’s about something that needs to be fixed, and the person to fix it is me.

So, I have surrounded myself with a team of problem solvers, and it has made tremendous improvements over the years. I want to share with you two examples of how my team solves problems.

  • He or she will come to me with a problem and a solution. Sometimes the solution works and sometimes it needs tweaking. I love when this happens because it’s shows initiative, trust and teamwork, but more importantly, it shows problem solving skills and leadership.
  • After a period of time and trust developing between myself and someone else, he or she will again come to me with a problem and a solution, but the difference is the solution is already in motion and the problem has already been solved. All he or she is doing is letting me know what’s going on.

When you (the employee) have earned this trust, it’s just a matter of time before the next promotion opens up for you.

  1. You need to be able to talk to people.

This might sound like simple, but way too many employees (and people in general) can’t do this. I think one of the issues facing young employees today is technology. There’s no need to call someone when you can just text them. There’s no need to meet or go hang out with someone when you can just video conference them.

My nephew is a pretty good soccer player. He was talking with some Division 1 colleges about playing in the Fall of this year. On one of the calls, it was my nephew, his dad (my brother) and the head coach of a pretty big school. The coach had asked my nephew if he could say a few things about himself. A few seconds go by and my nephew responded with “What would you like to know?” I cringe even typing this, just as I did the first time hearing about this. After the call, my brother made sure he was prepared for the next meetings.

I hear a lot of people say “I’m not outgoing” so I can’t talk with people. Having a conversation with someone has nothing to do with being outgoing.  It has a lot to do with giving the conversation the attention it needs. Here are a few tips that I have learned over the years.

  • Listen to what the other person is actually saying. In most cases, you will find something they said that you can relate to. Focus on this, and you will find you have a lot you can contribute to the conversation.
  • Tell a story. People love to hear stories, and they are usually easy to tell. Pretty soon the person you are having a conversation with will share a story of their own as well.
  • Ask questions. If you are unsure about something, then ask questions I have never experienced a situation where asking a question ended a conversation. Asking questions lets the other person know how interested you are in what they are talking about.
  • Talk about yourself. Some people would say doing this too much is a bad thing, but if the person you are talking with has nothing else to say, you have told a story and you asked all the questions you can, then you need to talk about something you know – yourself! I know it sounds conceited, but it’s a last ditch effort, and it usually works if done correctly.

It’s so important to be able to have conversations with customers, coworkers and whoever else. I try to make time to talk to whoever I can whenever I can. I do this both at work and outside of work.

  1. When you have mastered your ability to hold a conversation, you need to make as many connections with people as possible.

If you become good at having conversations, connecting with people will come naturally. Talk to as many people as you can in a day, and you will see your network grow. This network will only help you as you seek more. Let’s use an example to help explain how this can work. Let’s say you are an employee with a goal of owning your own tanning salon one day. There is a list of items that you are going to want to learn before you can do this. You will need to learn how to manage a store and people. You will need to learn how to do marketing, advertising, book keeping, inventory, payroll and much more. And, do you want to buy a store or open one up?

In each of these three steps you will need to connect with a different group of people. In step one, you will need to connect with the person who hires or promotes managers. Then you will need to connect with other managers to learn the ins and outs of managing. In the second step, you will need to be mentored by someone who knows marketing and advertising. You will need to meet with representatives from radio, billboards, texting programs, email programs, graphic art and the whole works. The last step, you will need to meet with banks, attorneys, accountants, builders, building inspectors and much more.

This is just an example of what connecting with people can do. There are millions of other reasons for the importance of connecting with people. The point I am trying to make is to connect and converse with as many people as you can. It will benefit you in many ways.

When I mentioned these three characteristics to other business owners and managers, they all thought theey were great.  ne even told me, “If I had one person that could do what you just said, then I would pay them much more than what I normally pay someone.” It’s important to really focus on these because I think it will set you up to succeed. I feel it’s so important I am already installing these three characteristics in my two children with the hope that by the time they are adults they will be way ahead of the competition.


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