Top 10 qualities of a good employee – how many of these are on YOUR team?

qualities of a good employee

Bloggers and consultants (like me) spend a lot of time talking about how important it is for your business to have really top notch talent. But it’s hard to attract, and retain talented people — really, they can be a pain! They are always asking hard questions (“Is this strategy really going to make us more profitable?”) and challenging the status quo (“Why do we use this tool?”). Is the extra effort that real talent calls for really worth it? Can’t I do fine with just mediocre talent that does what I ask them to do?

Smart, creative, hard-working, team members make your business better in so many ways. Here’s my top 10 qualities of a good employee.

Great employees…

1. Innovate.

Smart, creative, hard-working team members find better ways to do things — often better than you could ever come up with.

2. Do more than you ask.

They are “go-getters”; they don’t wait to be asked, when they see something that needs doing they do it without being asked

3. Correct your mistakes.

Sometimes the boss makes a mistake (I know I do). Instead of thinking, “The boss did it, this it must be right…” aggressive and talented people will see your mistake and have the confidence to ask you about it (or correct it without even asking…)

4. Solve problems (before they get to you).

One of the things that drives me most nuts is when employees come to me and say, “Gee boss, I did what you told me to do, but it’s not working…” Top talent will come to you with options, or better yet solutions. They don’t stop when they hit the first obstacle — they keep going.

5. Adapt to changing situations.

The world I’m working in is in constant flux. Every day there are new tools, new competitors, and new ideas — I can hardly keep up. Smart, creative team members embrace change — they aren’t threatened by it, they don’t shrink back from it, they engage it and help me find a way through it.

6. Attract great clients.

If I want to attract smart, creative clients — clients who want to make big changes, they are looking for smart, creative people to help them. From my front line employees to my receptionist and bookkeeper — everyone needs to be ready for the challenges and opportunities that those smart, aggressive clients can bring.

7. Make you better.

Sometimes I wonder if the business owners who don’t want to put up with really great team members just want to avoid the criticism and challenge that good people will bring them. Smart people will ask hard questions. Sometimes those questions are about our performance or decisions (ouch!). Personally, I welcome that. I want to get better at what I do. I need smart people around me who will push me!

8. Increase your confidence.

When I’m surrounded by smart, creative people — people who push me to make me better, it increases my confidence. It makes me feel like I can do anything. When I have that kind of confidence I win more business, I ask for higher prices, and I get better results with clients. The business owner’s confidence may be the #1 variable in determining how successful a business can be.

9. Have more fun.

I find that really talented, smart, creative people are a lot more fun to be around. They are taking big risks outside of work too — I get to hear their stories about being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, or traveling to Turkey with their band, or biking down the Pacific coast. Yes, they might test the vacation policy — but I don’t need someone who is going to be so complacent they never have a life that pushes against work boundaries. I recognize that — in many cases — their life outside of work is an indicator of the drive and imagination they can bring to my business. A need to take more time to pursue something remarkable doesn’t have to threaten me. In fact, when I make small concessions for them, it builds trust and loyalty. It’s worth it!

10. Make a bigger difference in the world.

Most of us are in business to make a mark — to leave the world a better place than we found it. Top notch talent enables you to make a bigger difference, with less of your efforts. Smart, creative people are a force multiplier — they turn your efforts into the efforts of a team. They take your ideas, and make them better and more effective. They leave a mark that’s bigger than what you can leave on your own.

You might have other reasons that you look for really good people (If so leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear them!) or you may want to argue with me (I’m happy to respond in the comments to that too!).

On second thought, if you want to get by with mediocre talent, keep doing that. Please don’t change. Mediocre talent needs a place to work, and I’m not going to hire them so go ahead, hire them. Leave the good one’s for the rest of us!

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  1. Brad – Excellent list. I would also add that great employees are ready to work with and lead other employees. These are true leaders who go above and beyond the call of duty to get the most out of not only themselves, but others too.

    • I had a mentor who would say they have a “bias toward action” — if there’s a problem they run *towards it* not away from it.

      Thanks for adding your comment Harry!

  2. Matthew Zajechowski says:

    Great list Brad. I think having employees that are willing to blog and create great content for your site is a great asset to any organization moving forward in this digital age.

  3. victor manuel rodriguez epique says:


  4. All this and, I was thinking, they attract other top talent.

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