21st Century Alchemy: Qualities of remarkable employees

Every employer hopes for great employees. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sally in Sales, Rachel in Research, or Manuel in Marketing, great employees are known for their excellent teamwork, impeccable communication, unquenchable motivation, unstoppable drive or unwavering honesty.

The remarkables
But then there’s a rarer breed of truly remarkable employees that employers never dream of and sometimes wish they never had. These are men and women who are either loved or loathed, embraced or envied. With them, it’s never something specific, like their glowing personality or wonderful work ethic, which sets them apart.
In fact, remarkable employees are often a little quirky (a pleasant way to say weird or unpredictable), thinking or performing way outside of the box. But invariably, these remarkable employees are game-changers, playing a huge part in the performance of any team or the company as a

Their own set of rules
But what do they do differently that makes them remarkable? Have a look at the list.

They ignore job descriptions – They think on their feet, adapt quickly to shifting priorities and circumstances and do whatever it takes to get it done regardless of their role or available resources.

But aren’t in it for the money – Remarkable employees are driven by something deeper and more meaningful than rewards like a better paycheck or recognition. They are willing to take responsibility for whatever they’re doing or involved in. What’s their motivation? Ownership.

They’re eccentric – Superficially they can seem odd, but in a really good way. In any team or group situation, unusual personalities always shake things up. People who are comfortable being different naturally stretch boundaries and challenge the status quo, often resulting in the best ideas or solutions coming to the surface.

But know when to dial it back – They know when to play but also when to be serious; when to be irreverent but when to conform; when to challenge but when to back off.

They publicly praise – Remarkable employees recognise the specific contributions of others, especially in group settings where their words have a greater impact.

But privately complain – Remarkable employees know discretion and approach their superiors at the right time and place, knowing that bringing it up at a meeting or other group setting could set off a firestorm.

They speak up when others won’t – Remarkable employees have an instinct for issues and the concerns of those around them, and they step up when others hesitate.

But doubt the doubters – Truly remarkable employees’ failure to understand “It’s impossible” is often rooted in taking pleasure in proving others wrong and that it can be done.

They’re always fiddling – Remarkable employees often suffer from a satisfied dissatisfaction. While they celebrate successes with others, they’re rarely completely satisfied.

While great employees follow processes, remarkable employees are constantly finding ways to make those processes even better, not because they’re expected to… but because they just can’t help it.

Unafraid to stand out
Are you good? Are you great? Or are your truly remarkable? Are you comfortable being the single dissenting voice against the flow of the meeting? Are you the one who will still stand up, speak your mind and question the status quo even in the face of total opposition?

You might just be truly remarkable, and a perceptive boss will recognise such an extraordinary asset. But before moving from good to great, or from great to remarkable, the other lesser but more obvious qualities of strong teamwork, effective communication and personal responsibility and reliability need to be firmly established.

Otherwise, your remarkable influence, while still being a catalyst for change, won’t be constructive but destructive


Questions & Answers

Interview Question
Have you applied for other jobs?

Why they’re asking – It’s like asking someone if they’re dating anyone else: awkward but not answering or lying is worse. Often it’s asked because they’re trying to find out how interested you are in the job, the industry or the work and whether it will be a fight to get you (we want what everyone else wants). But only answer this question if it’s asked.
How do you answer – Never bullshit. Never lie. The world is much smaller than you think. Say “I’m interested in several companies [no names] in the [name it] industry because …” Focus on universally or industry-specific desirable workplace items such as culture, reputation or work and use concrete explanations and examples (it shows you’ve done your homework). Continuing: “… but that [name the company] and this role in particular has really caught my eye because…. [explain why/how with concrete examples and why these are more important/valuable to you]”. Always make them feel like they’re the one!

Workplace Question
When I was at teenager (20 years ago), a bunch of us kids got caught stealing construction materials from several building sites to build a skate ramp. I was tried as an adult and spent a couple of months in jail. I’m now in my 30s and have been working at the same construction company for years and recently told a co-worker about it. Now I have a meeting with HR.

I don’t know the Danish statistics, but in the USA, background-checks reveal that about 10 percent of applicants have been convicted for something. Lying or non-disclosure usually means immediate dismissal or worse, so take this very seriously. Ask them what will be discussed and, if needed, get a lawyer to come with you. For future reference, some states and countries expunge (remove completely) your record if you can prove you’ve been ‘clean’ or rehabilitated.