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The #1 employee trait to look for

The topic of what makes a “good” hire or good employee often comes up in conversations I have with managers and colleagues that I work with or have worked with. The obvious and cynical answer is “one that can do their job” but that might just be the Friday talking! Seriously though, what they are getting at is more focused on the so called “soft skills” that someone brings to a company/job. This topic of conversation is usually paired with the ridiculous topic of, “When you have two equally qualified candidates, how do you distinguish between the two of them?” Right, like that has ever happened – two candidates equally qualified in every way!? Anywho, I digress……

#1 imageOften colleagues and hiring managers I have dealt with revert to the standard clichéd characteristics like “team-player”, “well-organized”, “multi-tasker”, “adapts to change”, etc. While those are all nice, I have to say I disagree with all of them. Assuming, from a technical competency/skill set perspective, the person is qualified for the job, than there is one key item I look for and vet in the interview process, or that I look for in folks that work for me. That is, I want to hire and lead folks who have a high degree of COACHABILITY. There it is – the secret ingredient in the Big Mac. No really, it is my belief that people who have a high degree of coachability have the greatest probability of having success in the role they are hired for. Well, what exactly is “coachability” you might ask? (And I am glad you did ask, otherwise this blog post would be meaningless.)

Coachabilitythe degree to which a person seeks out and receives coaching, guidance, mentoring and feedback from their manager, peers and other members of their support network. It is measured by the ability to internally process this coaching or guidance that they receive and translate it into productivity and outcomes in their role. It is continually gauged by their ongoing focus towards continuous improvement (personal and business) coupled with the desire to want to perform at an optimum level in their role.

Yes, I know you must also need to compensate, reward and recognize individuals for this type of performance, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume we have a proper compensation and rewards structure already in place. But think about it, individuals who embrace coaching and apply their learnings on the job to improve themselves truly are the best type of hires/employees…are they not? When I think back on my career, I have been very fortunate to have hired or inherited some great people that possess this characteristic. Yes, perhaps some of them may have had less than the “desired” amount of experience for the role, but they all demonstrated that element of coachability which ultimately made them very successful in their positions. They had the characteristics of being self-aware of their strengths and development areas and they had the humility to know that they didn’t know everything and wanted to grow. They also had the thirst to know and grow as a professional and to strive to do better. It was all of those elements that gave them that degree of coachability and made them great performers in their role(s).

So there you have it: Coachability is the single most important trait to look for in a prospective employee or within your current employees. Hire those folks that display this trait and develop and promote them once you have them hired. In a selfish way, it will make your job easier as a manager AND make you look like a genius. When you surround yourself with great people it makes you look smarter than you may actually be (it has worked for me).

What about you? What do you think is the most important trait for a new hire or employee to possess? Do you agree or disagree with coachability as being the #1 trait? As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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