5 qualities that make employees unforgettable

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In between all of the tasks, deliverables, fire drills and the rest of daily corporate world, it is important to step back a bit and take a look at what makes a great employee. One that you want on your team and one your team wants on your team. If you’re a manager, what makes an employee unforgettable? I’ll suggest five attributes.

They provide their business judgement

There is a lot to be said for knowing what the problems and solutions are when you’re working in the cubicle. The unforgettable employee takes that knowledge and applies it to solving business problems and providing alternative ways of doing things. If a manager asks for their best opinion, they have one and can back it up.

This is more than the standard “make suggestions.” This is knowing your stuff, analyzing it, and offering fact-based solutions to problems.

They fight the fight, then support the decision

No one’s business judgement is right all of the time. When the decision-making process is happening, go for your solution. But once a manager makes a decision, it’s time to jump into the fox hole with the rest of the team. No regrets. No recriminations. No “I told you so” if the decision made is wrong. You fight the fight and then go with the decision.

You also need a manager that understands this. Many, if not most, managers will interpret your push back or your solution as not being loyal to the team. It’s important that the manager understands that you’re being paid for your business judgement — but once the manager makes a decision, you are 100% on-board. Good managers will get that.

They see opportunity in uncertainty

One of my favorite job interview questions is “How well do you deal with ambiguity?”

And it’s true. Nothing is certain, about your job or anything else. Seeing the opportunity in uncertainty, or creating structure out of chaos, is a great job skill to have in your resume. Working where the corporation is changing means you’re working where the company wants to go. That’s very uncertain, but provides great opportunities.

They lead even though they are not a manager

For some reason, individual contributors have this belief that as an individual contributor, they don’t need to have leadership skills.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Individuals lead by their actions and provide a catalyst for others to get things done. Leadership happens with unforgettable employees.

They take risks (and need a manager to support the risk taking)

Employees don’t just do stuff by-the-book. They do things outside the book when the risk of doing so makes sense. There is a lot of trust here that needs to happen between a manager and an employee. An employee has to have proven they know what they are doing. And a manager has to both allow and appreciate that all risks won’t necessarily work out.

But the willingness to take a risk, execute against it, and succeed or fail is what differentiates great people from good people. If you do everything to procedure and by-the-book you’re dependable, but not outstanding. If you take some risks, succeed in executing them, you’ll be valued. If you take risks all the time and fail most of the time, you’ll not be there long. There is a balance and that balance is different in every company.

To be clear, I’m not saying that you, as a person working in cubicles, should strive to be unforgettable. Sometimes it makes great sense to do your job well, but not stand out from the crowd. But sometimes it makes sense to be unforgettable — for the opportunities, the sense of engagement in the work, and the sense of accomplishment.

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