8 Aug 2011

What makes an employee great? Dependability

The best quality an employee can possess is dependability.Credit: istockphoto.com/shironosov, shironosov
The best quality an employee can possess is dependability. This quality is what sets apart the great employees from just the average employees. In today's fast-paced business world, there is a lot of what my father calls "lip service" and my husband calls "bull...." -- well you get the idea.
Promises are made and deadlines are given but none are worth anything unless they are made by someone who is dependable. There is nothing more frustrating than calling the same person repeatedly for the same thing because he or she never carries through on what they say they will do. It is aggravating for customers, co-workers and employers.
I learned early in my career that my word is what set me apart and would help me excel in my career. When I told someone I would do something, they knew it would be done by the deadline or I would be calling them to explain the status. People began to rely on me because they knew I would not just tell them what they wanted to hear. If I could not do what was asked, I was honest enough to say so and provide the reason and alternate solution. Making promises you cannot keep will only make others consider you unreliable, untrustworthy and insincere. In order to keep my word, there were several lessons I had to learn about priorities, delegating and being humble.
1. Prioritize -- Learning how to prioritize is essential to being able to perform as promised. Knowing what is the most important and putting it first is tough to do at times but practice makes perfect. Deadlines are the easiest way to prioritize so put everything in order by deadline first then schedule your time, and promise to deliver, accordingly.
2. Delegating -- This was the hardest lesson for me to learn as I advanced in my career and accepted management positions. One attorney told me that it is easier to teach someone to dig ditches than to dig them yourself and he was right. It was difficult to let go but realizing you cannot do everything is part of always keeping your word - - you cannot do everything all of the time and still meet every deadline.
3. Communication -- Knowing how to communicate will help you always meet your deadlines and keep your word when you promise something. Effective communication is not just being able to put into words your thoughts. To communication effectively, you must also possess the ability to listen and understand. Before committing to a deadline, listen closely to everything involved - - the requirements, time constraints, etc. You cannot meet deadlines unless you first know what is involved in completing the task.
4. Organized -- Being organized is another quality that that is essential to meeting your deadlines and keeping your promises. The idea of organized chaos is a farce and one that is used by those who have no clue where anything is in their office and need time to find the document you are asking to see. Being organized will save you time from sorting through piles of paper to find the one document you need. Furthermore, being organized keeps you focused on your job and increases productivity.
5. Punctuality -- This was especially difficult for me to learn because I am not a morning person. However, the more responsibility I was given at work and the more management duties I received, I realized that being on time was key to meeting my deadlines. Arriving to work late put me behind before I even walked through the door. In addition to losing that time by being late, I was then in a rush to catch up which makes thinking clearly much more difficult.
6. Limitations - Know your limitations and what you can reasonably accomplish in any given day. It is tempting to tell everyone "no problem" and "of course I can get that done"; however, if you promise everyone the world then your universe will end up being nothing more than a black hole. You are only one person and in order to always keep your word you must realize your limitations.
7. Humility and honesty -- Sometimes it is necessary to admit you overextended yourself and need extra time. Communicating this honestly to clients and employers will not make you appear to be unreliable. By keeping your clients, customers and employer updated on your progress, you actually appear to be doing a better job even if you need a small extension of time to complete your task. Leaving someone hanging, wondering what is going on, only frustrates them and makes them doubt you can meet any deadline or perform as promised.

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