8 Subtle Signs that an Employee is Exceptional

By: Jeff Haden

We can all spot a great employee: he’s dependable, proactive, hardworking, a great leader and a great follower.

He brings a wide variety of easily defined — but hard to find — skills to the table.

Some employees, though, are exceptional. They have skills and qualities that aren’t evaluated on performance appraisals but make a huge impact on that individual’s performance, the performance of the people around her, and especially on the company’s results.

Here are eight signs an employee is truly exceptional:

  1. They think well beyond job descriptions

The smaller the company, the more important it is that employees can think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes, regardless of role or position, to get things done.

When a key customer’s project is in jeopardy, exceptional employees know without being told there’s a problem, and they jump in without being asked, even if — especially if — it’s not their job.

  1. They’re quirky…

The best employees are often a little different: a little eccentric, sometimes irreverent, even delighted to be unusual. They seem slightly odd, but in a really good way. Unusual personalities shake things up, make work more fun, and transform a plain-vanilla group into a team with flair and flavor.

People who aren’t afraid to be different naturally stretch boundaries and challenge the status quo, and they often come up with the best ideas. 

  1. And they know when to rein in their individuality

An unusual personality is a lot of fun — right up until the moment it isn’t. When a major challenge pops up or a situation gets stressful, the best employees stop expressing their individuality and fit seamlessly into the team.

Exceptional employees know when to play and when to be serious; when to be irreverent and when to conform; and when to challenge and when to back off.

It’s a tough balance to strike, and a rare few can walk that fine line with ease.

  1. They praise other people in public …

Praise from a boss feels good. Praise from a peer feels awesome, especially when you look up to that person.

Exceptional employees recognize the contributions of others, especially in group settings where the impact of their words is even greater.

  1. And they disagree in private

We all want employees to bring issues forward, but some problems are better handled in private. Great employees often get more latitude to bring up controversial subjects in a group setting because their performance allows greater freedom.

Exceptional employees come to you before or after a meeting to discuss a sensitive issue, knowing that bringing it up in a group setting could set off a firestorm.

  1. They ask questions when others won’t

Some employees are hesitant to speak up in meetings. Some are even hesitant to speak up privately.

An employee once asked me a question about potential layoffs. After the meeting I said to him, “Why did you ask about that? You already know what’s going on.” He said, “I do, but a lot of other people don’t, and they’re afraid to ask. I thought it would help if they heard the answer from you.”

Exceptional employees have an innate feel for the issues and concerns of those around them, and step up to ask questions or raise important issues when others hesitate.

  1. They like to prove other people wrong

Self-motivation often springs from a desire to show that doubters are wrong. The one without a college degree or the other who was told he didn’t have leadership potential often possesses a burning desire to prove other people wrong.

Education, intelligence, talent, and skill are important, but drive is critical. Exceptional employees are driven by something deeper and more personal than just the desire to do a good job.

  1. They’re constantly exploring

Some people are rarely satisfied (I mean that in a good way) and are constantly tinkering with something: reworking a timeline, adjusting a process, tweaking a workflow.

Good employees follow processes. Great employees tweak processes.

Exceptional employees find ways to reinvent processes, not just because they are expected to … but because they just can’t help themselves.

Advertisements

About Amr Badran

A Business Consultant and Corporate Trainer since 1997. I've trained on Management, Leadership and Soft Skills to thousands of people from many nationalities, backgrounds and professions in more than 10 countries across the Middle and Far East. I've also provided my consultancy service on issues of Strategic Planning, Marketing, Sales and Capacity Building. Holder of an MBA and a Candidate for Doctorate in Business. Find more about my Management and Personal Skills Courses at AmrBadran.com and feel free contacting me at Amr@AmrBadran.com
This entry was posted in Human Resources, Management, Personal Development, Work. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.