Two Defining Qualities of a Successful Employee

2 defining qualitiesIntegrity and Teachability

Adam Bryant, author of the weekly “ Corner Office” column in the New York Times, recently published a book of CEO opinions on the essential qualities of a successful employee. This got me thinking as I’m also frequently asked what qualities I look for in an employee when hiring or promoting. There can be several facets to that answer, but there is no question about the two core employee qualities I value most: Integrity and Teachability

“Integrity” is evident when an employee can consistently be relied upon to do what they say they will do.

“Teachability” is not the same as “hearability.” Hearability means they listen well and pay attention (which is important). However, “teachability” is when they change their behavior based on what they just heard, seen, or learned.

Imagine one quality without the other: you either end up with people promising to change yet never doing so (high teachability, but low integrity), or you end up with reliable people who rarely demonstrate meaningful personal growth (high integrity but low teachability).

On the other hand, if I’m working with an employee who has both qualities, then they can be relied upon to be continually learning, and, once aware of a better way to do something, they’ll commit to doing it. This is great teachability. They then do it, consistently, which is high integrity.

These successful employees can be put into increasingly challenging or responsible positions or given opportunities to learn and observe (often from more senior people or situations), and they will absorb, learn, change, and grow. As a result, their ability is continually increasing. Working with these kinds of people is a joy. They get it; do it, and move on. I’m continually motivated to accelerate their growth, and in turn their ability to influence is on an exciting-to-see upward trajectory.

So, when you’re looking for a new employee, teachability and integrity are the two things to look for first!

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