5 Qualities of Great Employees

My pastor told a story at church about being on top of a ski mountain in Colorado when his 5 year old daughter decided she was done skiing for the day. They were with a whole group of people, and he didn’t want anyone else to be disappointed, so he told them all to go enjoy their day of skiing and he would take her down. They missed the gondola ride, so he and his daughter had to ski back to their hotel. If you ask him, he will admit to also missing the turn off for the greens (the easiest run). After yet another wrong turn – he was looking down the better part of a black diamond run – to make it an even better story, it had moguls (strategically placed little bumps) all the way down. Apologizing to his daughter, they both agreed they would take it slowly and make their way down together. Remember, she was five! This was going to get hairy, but they set off on their way. He started by going a little way down and then turning around and coaching his daughter to join him. After successfully making it about half way down his daughter stopped him and said “Daddy, can I go first for the rest of the way?”  He said yes, and she continued to maneuver the two of them all the way down that very difficult black run.

I love that story because when it comes right down to it his daughter had a choice. She could have whined and cried the whole way down but she chose to push herself and not only make it down that hill but eventually turn from being the follower to the leader. Now that is pushing yourself to become great.

That story got me thinking about great people in history. Why were they so different and what set them apart? What makes them great? How did they end up in the history books. Just like that little girl on the ski slopes, I believe they each pushed themselves toward greatness when they could have given up and taken the easy way down the mountain.

Here is the thing, information can be taught – regardless of industry, age, gender or pay, all great employees share common qualities. People, teams or organizations willing to do these five things listed below is what separates the good from the great:

  1. Jump over the hurdle of failure.

    Thomas Edison will go down in history as one of the greatest inventors of all time. With over 1,000 inventions to his name, he revolutionized the way we light our homes, the way we watch movies and the way our research laboratories are set up. None of it happened without a whole lot of failure. He is quoted as saying “I have not failed.  I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. The first way to push yourself to greatness is to not allow failure to stop you on your journey. Even if it seems like what you are doing is not going to work, use what you know to make adjustments and get back on the road to being great.

  2. Train your brain. 

    Whether it is in the books you read, the seminars you attend or the people who advise you – continually train your brain in the area you want to become great in. Malcolm Gladwell’s main focus in his book Outliers, is that anyone who does something for 10,000 hours will be an expert at it. Expert = great right? Being a continual learner is an attribute of all of the greats.

  3. Slam impatience down to the ground.

    My personal trainer Stacey gives me a med ball to slam into the ground several times during a training session. It is something she has me do for 45 seconds as a sort of “rest” in between the heavy lifting she has planned out for me that day. I don’t know if you have ever done med ball slams, but there is nothing restful about it. It actually makes me want to throw up a little. She uses it as a cardio boost while giving my muscles a rest from repetitive motion. I think of it as an impatience break. Often times my muscles will start to get weak from all of the push ups or tri-dips she has me do. They start to get exhausted and it makes me impatient to not be able to do more. Stopping and doing med ball slams resets my muscle expectation so I can go on after that and continue with the set she has created for me. On your way to greatness, you will get tired, doubt and impatience will creep in – slam that to the ground!  Great people are patient people. They understand that greatness comes through hard work, perseverance and patience.

  4. Throw away your fears.

    Say this out loud. Greatness and fear will never share the same stage. Olympic medalists don’t stand on that podium, staring up at their country’s flag and singing their anthem because they were afraid. There was probably fear that crept up, but they didn’t allow it to take over their lives or impact how they made their decisions. It’s ok to acknowledge fear but don’t let it control you. I love Henry Fords quote, “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do”. Feel fear?   That’s normal, just power through it because on the other side of fear is greatness.

  5. Hike to the top of Mt. Believe and plant your flag.

    It’s a made up name, so no need to go map quest directions to Mt. Believe. Not literally at least. But figuratively, lace up your hiking boots, grab some water and a snack and set out on the hike of your life. Pushing yourself to greatness really has to start and end with you believing you can do it. Greatness is simply explained as holding onto something you believe you can do or have and fighting with every fiber of your being until that dream becomes a reality.

You can be great. In everything you want to be great in. But it takes hard work. You have to not let failure drag you down along the way. You have to stay educated and engaged in the learning process. Stay patient, toss fear out the window. Believe that what you are reaching for will be yours.

It is what separates the good from the great each and every time.


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