With a little ta-da …..

Graduation for the Class of 2012 is only 50 days away. Yes, 50 days. That’s only seven more weekends and seven more Monday mornings to wake up for class before their world changes. I’m sure that seems impossible to most seniors. Leaving JMU will be a challenging and exciting time in their lives.

Many seniors are now hunting for jobs. Landing and succeeding in a nine to five is exhilarating. It is also life changing — and there’s plenty of advice floating around the Internet about how to succeed. Some of it is good — and some is great!

Writer Jeff Haden ('82)

Recently, I came across an article posted to LinkedIn. When I clicked on it, I saw the article had been written by Jeff Haden (’82) and originally published in Inc.com magazine.  Jeff, owner of Blackbird Media, is a ghostwriter of nearly 40 nonfiction books, a freelance writer and a photographer. He’s also a featured columnist for Inc.com and for CBS MoneyWatch.com. Every month, his Inc.com columns are read by more than a million people. Jeff is also one of my favorite columnists, and this is one of my favorite articles. I like it  because it’s smart and spot on, and because so many JMU graduating seniors will jump into the marketplace and be remarkable employees. In a way, I think Jeff’s thoughts reflect the way Madison prepares students to take on the job world.

So with the author’s permission and a little ta-da, I am delighted to share Jeff’s wisdom for JMU’s current crop of seniors and job seekers.

8 Qualities of Remarkable Employees

by Jeff Haden (’82), originally published by Inc.com

Great employees are reliable, dependable, proactive, diligent, great leaders and great followers… they possess a wide range of easily-defined—but hard to find—qualities.

A few hit the next level. Some employees are remarkable, possessing qualities that may not appear on performance appraisals but nonetheless make a major impact on performance.

Here are eight qualities of remarkable employees:

1. They ignore job descriptions. The smaller the company, the more important it is that employees can think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities, and do whatever it takes, regardless of role or position, to get things done.

When a key customer’s project is in jeopardy, remarkable employees know without being told there’s a problem and jump in without being asked—even if it’s not their job.

2. They’re eccentric… The best employees are often a little different: quirky, sometimes irreverent, even delighted to be unusual. They seem slightly odd, but in a really good way. Unusual personalities shake things up, make work more fun, and transform a plain-vanilla group into a team with flair and flavor.

People who aren’t afraid to be different naturally stretch boundaries and challenge the status quo, and they often come up with the best ideas.

3. But they know when to dial it back. An unusual personality is a lot of fun… until it isn’t. When a major challenge pops up or a situation gets stressful, the best employees stop expressing their individuality and fit seamlessly into the team.

Remarkable employees know when to play and when to be serious; when to be irreverent and when to conform; and when to challenge and when to back off. It’s a tough balance to strike, but a rare few can walk that fine line with ease.

4. They publicly praise… Praise from a boss feels good. Praise from a peer feels awesome, especially when you look up to that person.

Remarkable employees recognize the contributions of others, especially in group settings where the impact of their words is even greater.

5. And they privately complain. We all want employees to bring issues forward, but some problems are better handled in private. Great employees often get more latitude to bring up controversial subjects in a group setting because their performance allows greater freedom.

Remarkable employees come to you before or after a meeting to discuss a sensitive issue, knowing that bringing it up in a group setting could set off a firestorm.

6. They speak when others won’t. Some employees are hesitant to speak up in meetings. Some are even hesitant to speak up privately.

An employee once asked me a question about potential layoffs. After the meeting I said to him, “Why did you ask about that? You already know what’s going on.” He said, “I do, but a lot of other people don’t, and they’re afraid to ask. I thought it would help if they heard the answer from you.”

Remarkable employees have an innate feel for the issues and concerns of those around them, and step up to ask questions or raise important issues when others hesitate.

7. They like to prove others wrong. Self-motivation often springs from a desire to show that doubters are wrong. The kid without a college degree or the woman who was told she didn’t have leadership potential often possess a burning desire to prove other people wrong.

Education, intelligence, talent, and skill are important, but drive is critical. Remarkable employees are driven by something deeper and more personal than just the desire to do a good job.

8. They’re always fiddling. Some people are rarely satisfied (I mean that in a good way) and are constantly tinkering with something: Reworking a timeline, adjusting a process, tweaking a workflow.

Great employees follow processes. Remarkable employees find ways to make those processes even better, not only because they are expected to… but because they just can’t help it.

You can learn much more about Jeff — who no doubt practices what he preaches — and about his interesting career by visiting his website at http://www.blackbirdinc.com/about.html  
Here’s the link to Jeff’s original story: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/the-8-qualities-of-remarkable-employees.html  By searching “Jeff Haden” on Inc.com you can read even more of his excellent articles.
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About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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