7 Work Habits Found in Extremely Valuable Employees


How do you define a valuable employee? Is it experience or maybe work ethic? Do you see competence in a specific area as the be-all and end-all of determining employee value?

What about soft skills? Do they hold the same value when interviewing for a rock star engineer or strategist position? Well, they should.

While technical skills and other hard skills defined in the job description matter, it’s an employee’s people skills and a whole host of other personal attributes that are crucial for long-term success.

Most companies undervalue soft skills or the impact people development will have on an organization. They assume the hard stuff holds more weight and makes the business go around. In turn, when difficult personalities and egos emerge, when sudden change and uncertainty takes place, and when conflict seems inevitable, it’s the employees with the natural ability to communicate and respond to crisis who hold the most value.

When crafting the people elements for fostering a great company culture, here are eight employees you’ll want to consider hiring:  

1. People who are active listeners.

Effective communication isn’t just about talking; it is also the ability to listen and understand what’s happening on the other side of the fence. The best people-centered employees will listen and reflect back what they hear to clarify (“What I hear you saying is …”), and they’ll ask questions to probe the other person’s feelings or opinions. This can be as simple as: “Tell me how you feel about this.”

2. People with emotional intelligence (EQ).

While IQ still remains the best predictor of job success, once you land a job and start thinking about increasing your role, managing multiple priorities, getting promoted, leading others, and navigating political landscapes, IQ will be begging for EQ to show up. Daniel Goleman, the foremost authority on emotional intelligence, has put together these nine important questions to help a person evaluate his or her emotional intelligence.

3. People with a high degree of patience.

People with patience have the capacity to process a situation about to go south, get perspective, listen without judgment to someone they disagree with, and hold back from reacting head on. Practicing this rare business virtue may mean deciding to sit on your decision. By thinking over things with a rational and level head, you’ll eventually arrive at a  more sane conclusion. These are the people you want to build a company culture around.

4. People who avoid drama.

Employees with emotional intelligence have a clear advantage: they cut through the drama by telling the facts as they see them and how it affects them. Let me unpack that further: These people are able to diffuse an emotionally-charged moment with a calm demeanor, explain the outcome they’re hoping for, and ask for other ideas for solutions with an open mind. By hiring people with the ability to manage conflict, you’ll see more constructive, productive, and respectful discussions taking place, which can help resolve hairy situations to everyone’s satisfaction.

5. People who can manage their emotions.

Self-control (or “self-management”) is a personal competence developed in every person. The question behind self-control is: Can I manage my emotions and behavior to a positive outcome? Not everyone can. Daniel Goleman says this about people with self-control:

“Reasonable people–the ones who maintain control over their emotions–are the people who can sustain safe, fair environments. In these settings, drama is very low and productivity is very high. Top performers flock to these organizations and are not apt to leave them.”

6. People who reject the idea of multitasking.

Productive people are successful in managing their time because they avoid juggling many things. Research says multitasking is a myth and can be damaging to our brains. You end up splitting your focus over many tasks, losing focus, lowering the quality of your work and taking longer to hit your goals.

7. People who value and practice well-being during work hours.

Top employees are looking for companies that allow them to integrate work and life during their schedule, and the smartest bosses are giving them that flexibility because it makes business sense. One example is the workplace habit of taking short, frequent breaks. A 2016 study showed that hourly five-minute walking breaks (out in nature with a friend, for example) boosted energy levels, sharpened focus, and improved mood throughout the day. These “microbursts of activity” increase motivation and concentration and enhance creativity, according to researchers at Stanford University.

8. People who self-manage extremely well.

Forget time management –you want people who are good managers of “self.” By managing your life, tasks, and priorities efficiently, you can seamlessly transition to more productivity, higher work satisfaction, and better personal well-being. And that’s what the most valuable employees do to reach their most optimal level of self-management. For example:

  1. As noted earlier, they don’t multitask or juggle too many things.
  2. They start and end meetings on time, and don’t get sidetracked or allow the agenda to get hijacked.
  3. They set boundaries and say no to people when needed, so their time is protected.
  4. They identify the time of the day when they’re most productive and focus their energy on doing the most important things during those times.
  5. They’re aware of time-wasters such as visitors dropping by their workspace to gossip; they ensure they don’t spend time in useless meetings, distracting phone calls, and anything that else that disrupts their state of flow.

Your turn: What traits or behaviors have you seen the most valuable employees exhibiting?







We’ve surveyed hundreds of leaders about their greatest leader, the most important natural behaviors beyond character and hard worker were Results and Relationships.

Where do you tilt on the results and relationships scale?

Check out this free infographic, and please tell others about it!



8 healthcare leaders share their No. 1 piece of advice


Good leadership advice is meant to be shared. Here eight healthcare leaders — including CEOs, CFOs and chief strategy officers — offer the No. 1 piece of advice they would give other leaders in their field.

1. Rob Bloom, CFO of Carthage (N.Y.) Area Hospital. “The best advice I have is to find the courage to change what must be changed and accept those things that cannot be changed in the short term. Regardless of whether a hospital is profitable or struggling, there will be challenges. The difficult task is to determine where to focus resources while accepting criticism for problems that will not change the short-term viability of the organization. You have to learn to trust your judgment and resist pressures from others that might tempt you to alter your course based on their lack of understanding. It is very much a triage process: Stop the bleeding first, then worry about infection later.”

2. Mona Chadha, chief strategy officer of San Francisco-based Dignity Health’s Bay Area. “One of the key strengths of being a good leader is really listening and leading people by example. That to me is one of the successes. Then, do some thinking outside of the box. That’s been my mantra of success in the past.”

3. JoAnn Kunkel, CFO of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health. “The very first CFO I worked for in 1990 always said, ‘you’re only as good as your team. … I’d never be able to be successful without having you and the team working with me.’ [That CFO] was a very thoughtful and inclusive leader. He gave me opportunities to be part of the team and think strategically and develop into a leader. So since then, it’s always been my belief that we have a very strong team that should always participate. If we have someone that needs help, we have multiple individuals ready to step up. And working together makes us all better. My advice would be: It’s important to remember you are only as good as your team. Sometimes I think when you get into these leadership roles you can forget that. You always want to be inclusive, give credit to the work and the team and the efforts that help make you successful in your role.”

4. Michael McAnder, CFO of Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare. “I think what I’d say is try and look for the long-term play. You can’t manage this business on a day-to-day basis. You have to have a clear direction and stick with it. I think that’s probably the thing our CEO Kevin Brown has done really well. I have never worked at an organization with a one-page strategic plan before. Every meeting starts with it, and we use it at every presentation. That consistency has brought clarity. It’s also why we’ve gone from five hospitals to 11 in the three years I’ve been here. That resonates with other organizations when we talk about our plan. It’s really important. In addition, obviously, you have to act with integrity and character. If you’re in a position where you can’t do that, you have to make a different decision about whether you can keep working for someone.”

5. Alan B. Miller, CEO of King of Prussia, Pa.-based Universal Health Services. “I often give a few pieces of advice to other CEOs and leaders, including:

  • Character is destiny — a person with good character will always be better off in life. Choose your friends carefully because you are known by the friends you keep.
  • Hard work is critical. If you are going to do something, do it well.
  • Hire the best team possible. Build trust, and rally the team to focus on a common goal.”

6. David Parsons, MD, CMO of Portland-based Northwest Permanente. “Listen to the people you lead and be honest about which problems you can solve and which ones you can’t. People usually don’t mind being told no as long as you are direct and honest about the reasons why. People detest ambivalence.”

7. Mike Pykosz, CEO and founder of Chicago-based Oak Street Health. “Be persistent and be motivated by your mission. One thing we found really early was everything is a lot harder and takes a lot longer than you think it will. Things that make a lot of sense to you and are super logical will always take a little longer. [Success] requires breaking down a lot of little barriers, including a lot of inefficiencies, a lot of complexities and mindshare. But whatever it is, be persistent and have faith that if you’re trying to do the right thing, and if you stay at it, you’ll be able to break down those barriers and accomplish these things.”

8. Michael Wallace, president and CEO of Fort Atkinson, Wis.-based Fort HealthCare. “I’d say visualize the outcome you want and then go get it. I also like the phrase ‘try hard, fail fast, move on, start over.’ You’re one step closer to a solution if the last one didn’t work. But don’t let perfect get in the way of good. I like to be 8 for 10 rather than 3 for 3. Failure is the byproduct of trying to move an organization forward. If I get 8 of 10 things right, I am going to end up further along, closer to my vision than if I wait to be sure about everything to get that perfect 3 for 3.”




New Questions for Leadership Tipping Points

The opportunity and ability to step into a tipping point makes us feel responsible, powerful, and apprehensive.

Every decision both responds to and creates a tipping point.

New questions for leadership tipping points:


The pursuit of ease makes you matter less.

Ease in small doses expands capacity, but in large doses destroys us.

  1. How might this decision challenge you in new ways?
  2. How might new challenges become personal growth points?

Please know that I’m not encouraging workaholism. However, making a difference requires getting your hands dirty.


Every decision contributes to trajectory.

The consequence of decisions is real direction, not intended direction. You’re always heading somewhere.

  1. How does this decision reflect a “running toward” attitude, rather than running away?
  2. What are you running toward?

Long-term or short-term:

The appeal of short-term perspectives is immediate gratification, sometimes at the expense of long-term value.

Crisis requires short-term perspective. Put the fire out! But constant “crisis mode” sacrifices the future on the altar of urgency.

  1. How does making this decision reflect a long-term perspective?
  2. How does making this decision reflect a short-term perspective?


Life is relationships, nothing more, nothing less.

  1. What new relationships might result from making this decision?
  2. How does this decision impact current relationships?
  3. How might new relationships expand capacity and/or capability?


Tipping points include opportunities to both receive and give value.

  1. What new opportunities for service are available?
  2. How might your strengths find new expressions?

5 general questions:

  1. How does making this decision reflect a commitment to something greater?
  2. How are you expressing your best self?
  3. How are you expressing the self you hope to become?
  4. How much of this decision is motivated by fear?
  5. How much of this decision is motivated by dissatisfaction?

What questions might leaders ask when facing tipping points?


89% of Employees are Demotivated by Ineffective Managers and Leaders

It might hurt, but look in the mirror if people around you are low energy slugs.

The greatest ability is the ability to develop abilities.

98% of employees who have good leaders are motivated to do their best. Only 11% of employees with ineffective managers felt motivated to give their best.*

The magic question:

Improvement stops when people believe they’ve reached the level of “acceptable” performance.

Challenge people to reach for the next level by asking a simple question.

“How do we take this to the next level?”

I’ve been asking teams this question. It works.

7 keys to reaching the next level:

  1. Paint a picture of the next level. “What might the next level look like?”
  2. Ask, “What might you do to take your performance to the next level?” Identify three or four possible behaviors.
  3. Create focus before performance.
    • “What do you plan to do?”
    • “What’s important?”
  4. Give pep talks before performance.
    • “You got this.”
    • “I know you can do this.”
    • “I know you’re going to do even better than last time.”
  5. Provide immediate feedback after performance.
    • “You looked down when you were thinking. You lost me.”
    • “You wandered at the end of the meeting. How might you end better next time?”
    • “You seemed resistant when you kept asking the same question. How might you practice greater openness?”
  6. Appreciate improvement. “You paused and lowered your voice before the main point of your presentation.That really worked.” The Boston Consulting Group reports that the number one factor in employee happiness is appreciation for their work.
  7. Clarify reasons for success.
    • “What did you do differently?”
    • “What did you do this time that you need to keep doing?”

Tip: You never get to the next level by repeating the past.

How might leaders bring out the best in others? In teams?