Skills every employee must have

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Someone recently asked me who my best hires have been. Did I notice a consistent feature among people who go on to be successful at work? These questions got me thinking.

My journey over the last two decades has included some of the star hires and some who appeared to be good bets at the time of hiring but eventually ended up either failing miserably or displaying lackluster performance. I realized that beyond a person’s knowledge and experience, certain behavioral skills tend to be good predictors of stability, leadership and success at work. Over the years, I have increasingly been focusing on them to build strong organizations with people as their core strengths. A person with a highly successful career, in my experience, is someone who:

  1. Self-starter

Most of my hires have been self-starters, people who on joining an organization start creating their own opportunities, understanding the legacy context and issues, initiating interactions and building relations. These people tend to not wait for guidance and support and can operate in a new context with minimal hand holding. Mostly, these are also the people who are comfortable with ambiguous roles, situations and can make progress even with partial clarity.

  1. Perspective

The world is changing fast. What used to work earlier, may not work today; what is a best practice somewhere may not even be an acceptable practice in some other place. People with a perspective and courage to put forward their thoughts, even the not-so-popular ones, are typically the ones who create change and add value that others appreciate.

  1. Customer Centric

The world is full of people doing things, but unless they are doing them with the humility and thought of solving another’s problem, all we get are newer problems, not newer solutions. Hence, I’ve always looked for someone who identifies what s/he needs to do based on a pain point of someone else s/he is addressing.

And, once they come in, they usually get more support from the stakeholders and more buy in for the initiatives they attempt. Has an inherent drive for results: In the organizations I’ve been in, we have always been creating and evolving.

Hence, there has always been lot to do and hires who brought along with them tons of energy and stamina, people who could stretch and not get bogged down when some things would not work out are the ones who made progress faster. These were also the people who would keep at things with a dogged perseverance till a solution was found.

While the world appreciates effort, what it lauds and recognizes are finally the outcomes and people with a fire in their belly for results.

  1. Problem-solver

Every role is created to solve a pain point for the organization. Everyone is an expert at identifying issues. What people value is a person who can come in and also solve some of them.

There’s a lot of data floating around — people who can make sense of it and connect the dots, see the missing pieces, be creative in arriving at solution and have the courage to take a call and decide on a course of action, are the ones who give comfort to their bosses, juniors and peers. Execution on the ground can never be over-emphasized as a must-have.

  1. Organized

Today’s organizations are like today’s computers…multi-threaded, which means a lot is happening in parallel and that essentially means that for someone to be able to do well, s/he needs to necessarily be able to plan and prioritize work and optimize on resources. This also means that the person should be able to see ahead, identify dependencies and risks, and take preemptive actions to reduce chances of going off-track.

It also requires a resilience to get back on track, because in all likelihood, even if you address four variables, there’ll always be that one little aspect that does take you off-track. People who are good at organizing their desk (and yes, some of them come with neat desks and some with cluttered ones) tend to be more in control of their work and their careers.

  1. Team Player

When you’re not working alone, a lot of your success also comes from how well you work with others. Your colleagues must find you trustworthy and approachable; only then will they be willing to learn from you as well as share their knowledge with you and also be willing to help you.

It also means that the person should have the emotional maturity and skill to manage work conflicts and utilize them as positive opportunities. Being able to communicate one’s own thought as well as listen and be able to understand the others’ perspective is an important skill. I’ve always hired people who are good team players, build relations and can take a joke.

  1. Knows what it takes to lead

Roles with teams also require someone who not only can be part of teams but can also form and build them. The skill of delegation to get work done from others and of being able to unite individuals with their own individualistic into a single unit driven by a common purpose, is critical for a leader.

To take personal interest in the development of each individual of the team and help them fortify their strengths and identify and work around their weaknesses is equally important. A leader must be capable enough to challenge team members enough for them to grow and provide them enough of a safety net so that they may experiment and risk without worrying too much about failure. This is actually one of the more difficult traits to find but such people tend to have teams with the lowest attrition. No one likes to leave a good boss.

  1. Entrepreneurial ability

This, I can’t stress enough. These are VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, or Ambiguity) times and we need people who are comfortable with ambiguity — people who can try and make sense out of a haze and have the ability to take risks with ideas and try and create something new; who own up to failures and are not afraid of them. I’ve always tried to find people with that quirk to do something new, create something and have the courage to take the plunge.

  1. Constant learner

The last but not the least, most people don’t realise how important it is for a person to be continuously focused on learning, into evolving into something new to be relevant with the times. This ensures success.

Some of my best hires don’t just learn about their own work area; they are naturally curious and tend to be interested in a lot of things and usually have hobbies they are passionate about. Beyond these traits, cultural fitment with the organization tends to be another important criterion. But in my experience, people who are good on most of these traits, have done far better in their careers than most others.

Contributed by Milind Limaye

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