In the last column, I suggested employees need to find ways to be regarded by their employer as a “specialty employee” just as my wife and I think of the My Dad’s Sweet Corn brand as a “specialty product.” If you are mentally classified by your employer as a specialty employee, you have so many skills and so much knowledge and experience, coupled with a winning personality, that your employer simply can’t – and won’t -- lose you. So you get paid more, get choicer assignments, get more variety in your work, are far less likely to be laid off in tough times, and move ahead faster.
So, what are those “specialty” features against which you can measure your actual performance? There are literally thousands of books and articles that report the results of both anecdotal and very large studies on the key qualities of “fast trackers.” There are hundreds of individual traits listed in these publications. But, when tallying which traits are most frequently mentioned, the “10%/90% Rule” holds true: 10% of the total traits are listed in 90% of the studies. Here are the “fast tracker” (aka specialty) traits from two of my favorite books on the subject. While they might seem more applicable to managers or technical personnel, for the most part every employee would do well to work by them.
From High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders, by Dr. Morgan W. McCall, Jr., Harvard Business School Press. McCall asserts that the specialty employee:
1) Continually seeks opportunities to learn and do new things;
2) Acts with integrity, is known as a “truth teller,” and takes responsibility for own actions;
3) Adapts to cultural differences whether in a domestic or foreign assignment;
4) Seeks broad business knowledge and wants to understand how his company “fits together;”
5) Is committed to making a positive difference in whatever role he finds himself and can put the organization above self if necessary.
6) Brings out the best in people, individually or in teams;
7) Is insightful, is able to see things from new angles and perspectives;
8) Has the courage to take reasonable risks and go against the status quo;
9) Seeks and uses feedback to better own performance;
10) Learns from the inevitable mistakes and doesn’t make the same mistake twice;
11) Is open to and able to handle criticism, and avoids being overly defensive.
From Winning by Jack Welch, Ph.D., Harper Collins Books. Welch is the retired Chairman and CEO of General Electric Company, as much known for its talent as its products. While his extra-marital affairs may rightly be criticized, Fortune 500 CEO’s regularly rated Welch as their most admired CEO. Boardrooms are different than bedrooms.
1) Integrity.Telling the truth.Being authentic (He takes a lot of personal flak on this one.);
2) Continual learner. High degree of intellectual curiosity;
3) Maturity. Able to stand the heat. Confident but not arrogant;
4) Positive energy. Thrives on action and relishes change. Contagious enthusiasm;
5) Able to energize others. Optimistic, great communicator, concerned about others’ well being;
6) Edge – The ability to make tough “go” or “no go” decisions in a decisive manner.
7) Execution – Can push through all the inevitable problems and obstacles in any project;
8) Passion – Exhibits authentic excitement about the job and the people doing it;
9) Is able to “see around corners.” Has a “sixth sense” of what is coming, usually gained from experiences, often unhappy ones;
10) Hires, develops and keeps great people. Maintains deep “bench strength.”
11) Is resilient and able to bounce back from the inevitable set-backs.
“Smarts” and “Smarts”
While it is essential that any person wanting to move ahead in an organization, especially a large, blue chip company, have a fair degree of IQ “smarts” (GPA, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.) one doesn’t have to be “Mensa smart” to succeed. When you look at the above factors, it becomes clear most are of the EQ (Emotional Intelligence) type – the “soft side” of managing. In fact, almost all studies of competencies factors found in successful managers show that 80% – 90% are of the EQ type.
Did you assess your day-to-day job performance against the above criteria? How did you do? Even if you are not a manager or business owner, these qualities can be developed as an individual contributor. If there are some “holes,” you may want to get and devour the above books. How do you acquire EQ competencies? Just being aware of what they are is a good place to start. Try Dr. Daniel Goleman’s ground-breaking book, Working With Emotional Intelligence.
Dr. Charles Waldo is a retired Professor of Marketing at Anderson University’s Falls School of Business