What Makes A Great Employee?


I speak to a ton of corporate leaders and small business owners. Jobs in their companies sit open & unfilled for months on end — even though the unemployment rate is still high and there are people begging for work.

“There is a war for talent,” they tell me. “Where are the A players? We only want to hire A players.”


So let’s take a look at how corporate leaders, managers, and business owners define those ‘A’ players.

  1. You work really hard and pour your heart & soul into a company/brand.
  2. You are innovative but willing to turn over intellectual property you develop.
  3. You don’t ask for money because you are working for something more than money.
  4. You understand that sometimes a company will fail — but you don’t care because you like risk.
  5. Even though you like risk, there is nothing risky about your personality that will damage a company’s reputation.

Wow. Those aren’t ‘A’ players. Those are robots — or maybe monkeys — who act out some weird, hippie fantasy that work is about passion and dreams. Not cash. Nope. Not about money at all.

I want to write a new list and define great employees. Here’s my first draft.

  1. They have skills. They can do something important and in demand.
  2. They have integrity. Principles matter. Executive leaders and business owners have responsibilities to the country, to workers, and to the community.
  3. They can commit to the job and its responsibilities. They live up to those commitments every single day.
  4. They enjoy working hard and challenging their brains. Great employees don’t shovel corporate dog poop.
  5. When they make a mistake, they own it and apologize. They also expect a second chance to make things right.

Great employees are hard to find — but so is a really great person because most people suck. So when you find a great employee, don’t mess it up with sententious statements about brands and values and teams. And know this: people with integrity will not deal with people who don’t operate honestly. Think twice before you present a low-ball offer.

And if you are a great employee, learn to tell your story so that you’re sharing both your skills and your philosophies. Tell an interviewer what you have to offer — but talk about what matters to you in a job, in a boss, and in a company. And be willing to walk away if the job isn’t right.

That’s how we make progress in this world.

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