Management Practices

12 Characteristics of a Great Employee

Lauren Salapatek | July 25, 2013 | 8:20 AM

Neil Ducoff
Neil Ducoff
"Leadership is about growing a company into something extraordinary. It's about getting results, hitting goals, taking calculated risks, and creating profit. It's about structure, discipline, making tough decisions, and, when necessary, leading your company out of a crisis. Leadership is many things, but it's really about people. And it's that people thing that gives leaders a true sense of fulfillment ... or drives them crazy," says Neil Ducoff, Founder and CEO of Strategies, a leading salon/spa/medspa business coaching, consulting and training firm.

"Imagine what it would be like to lead a team of perfect employees. Everyone would show up motivated and on time. Customers would be delighted beyond belief. Change initiatives would be as easy as flipping a switch. Competitors would be in awe. Of course, this scenario is pure fantasy. Even if you had a team of "A" employees, the combination of skills, personalities, thinking, and behaviors would still require a leader capable of bringing them all together to achieve a common goal."

So what exactly are the characteristics of a great employee? Here's Ducoff's list of twelve characteristics:

Trustworthy: At the top of the list is trust. Surrounding yourself with people that are trustworthy allows you to channel your efforts on moving the company forward. Trust eliminates the drama that slows down progress. Simply put, there is no greater feeling a leader can have than knowing that your people have your back.
Team player: It's nice to have a star player on your team - as long as that star supports and complements the team. The moment a star gets that "all about me" thinking, the team becomes fragmented and less effective. There are also employees that tend to hide in the shadow of the team. They are content being dragged along without contributing and putting forth effort. Superstars and slackers alike degrade teams; either get them on the bus or get them off.
Takes initiative: I just love employees that step up and take ownership in solving problems and achieving the right outcomes. These employees lift the team and add a natural momentum. Encourage initiative - don't restrict it by micromanaging.
Embraces change: Change resisters slow progress. It's like a ship dragging an anchor. It's the leader's job to establish a vision and purpose for change. In a culture of trust, change is easier to embrace. Even great employees need help with change.
Sense of urgency: I always say that urgency is energy. Great employees have a bounce in their step and a natural desire to achieve results and win. They inspire others to get up to speed.
Accountability: Great employees never say, "That's not my job." If it needs to get done - they get it done. Accountability is the glue that bonds together a no-compromise culture.
Delivers results: Great employees take pride in their work. They deliver results because they want to contribute and feel valued and appreciated. Most of all, they are passionate about their work and support what the company stands for.
Learns from mistakes: Yes, just like you, great employees make mistakes. Mistakes are a natural byproduct of taking initiative. Great employees learn from mistakes, but it takes a great leader to allow mistakes to become learning opportunities.
Seeks to mentor others: Great employees share their knowledge, skills, and experience with others. They willingly reach out their hand to lift other team members up. Mentoring is what great employees do.
Protects and lives the company culture: Company cultures are highly susceptible to contamination. When left unchecked, toxic employees can quickly spread their ick to others. Great employees serve as an extension of leadership and protect the company culture by living its values. Like antibodies that fight infection, they help weed out people that don't fit the culture.
Integrity: Great employees have strong moral principles. Honesty, compassion, and respect for others make them model employees. They play by the rules and help others do the same.
Sense of humor: Work shouldn't always feel like work. Having a sense of humor lightens up the day and helps when working through tough situations. Laughter and having fun takes the "work" out of work.

"These are just some of the characteristics that define a great employee. In the end, it's the leader that brings these qualities to life or snuffs them out. No compromise," says Ducoff.

Neil Ducoff is the Founder and CEO of Strategies, a leading salon/spa/medspa business coaching, consulting and training firm. He is also is the author of "Fast Forward - Second Edition: The Definitive Guide to Salon/Spa Management," as well as the award-winning "No-Compromise Leadership" and "Wake Up!" books. Learn more at

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