I met with a client the other day who was telling me about one of his favorite employees. Words like high performer, rockstar, favorite and value-added team member were used generously by this man – I could have pulled ten or so sound-bites regarding engagement and performance out of his monologue.
I’m known for being blunt so I don’t think I startled him when I told him I didn’t care to hear all the buzzwords and instead, I would love to have him answer a few questions about this “excellent employee.”
- What the characteristics does he/she possess?
- What actions does he/she consistently engage in?
- What behaviors does he/she consistently demonstrate?
- How does he/she make other people feel?
- If you were to eavesdrop on his/her work, what would you see and hear?
My client thought for awhile and then started to answer my questions. Within a minute or two, I noticed he was offering up generalities so I stopped him again.
I pushed him to be specific.
I think we do ourselves and our excellent employees a disservice when we use generalities. If they are truly excellent employees, they deserve specificity.
- Don’t simply say they are competent…list the skills and abilities that make them stand out above their colleagues.
- Don’t simply say they volunteer and chip in…tell a story of when it was easier or more convenient to do otherwise and yet they helped anyway.
- Don’t simply say they are professional…describe how they have positively represented your organization and if they’ve managed to repair someone’s negative perception of your team.
- Don’t simply say they are honest and ethical…tell how you’ll know they’ll do the right thing regardless of who is looking or who would know otherwise.
- Don’t simply say they are liked and respected by their colleagues…identify the coworkers who strive to emulate their behavior or who consistently ask them for advice and counsel.
- Don’t simply say they are kind and courteous to others…tell how they encourage and motivate others.
- Don’t simply say they are good communicators…explain how they ensure their message is understood and what types of things they do to ensure they can focus and truly listen to others.