Let’s be honest — employees are both the best and the worst part of owning an agency.  It’s tough to find the right ones.  It’s a challenge to train them well.  It’s a bear to encourage each of them in the way they want to be encouraged.  And even when you know it’s the right thing to do, it’s miserable to fire one.

I always marveled at Jack Welch‘s philosophy that you should fire the bottom 10% of your work force.  I have to admit, there were years when I fantasized about it.  And other years when I truly didn’t have a bottom 10% because everyone was gold medal worthy.

Top employees are like athletes – motivated, well trained people who are willing to make personal sacrifices for the team. Certainly a competitive nature is important, but it doesn’t work well for your company unless it’s accompanied by a deep sense of loyalty and responsibility.

As I thought about what makes a gold medal employee (and I acknowledge that it starts with having a gold medal employer, which I try very hard to be…and hit about 50% of the time.) I came up with this list.

  1. Gold medal employees go above and beyond expectations. They don’t stop when they meet the minimum goals for their jobs – they strive to set new records.
  2. Gold medal employees offer solutions, not problems. They don’t just say to the boss, “You have a problem.” Instead, you hear, “We have a problem – let’s see if I can figure a way to solve it.”
  3. Gold medal employees bounce back. When they fail, they don’t let it get them down. They admit the mistake and find ways to fix it.
  4. Gold medal employees don’t make excuses. They don’t blame others for their own errors. They take responsibility.
  5. Gold medal employees finish tasks on time. They set interim deadlines for long-range tasks and they don’t panic when the work is due.
  6. Gold medal employees shoot for a good record, not perfection. They know their capabilities. People who seek perfection tend to get frustrated and put themselves under so much pressure that they rarely accomplish what they’re capable of doing.
  7. Gold medal employees think ahead. They try to plan for all possibilities so they’re prepared for the unexpected. Result: Your company experiences fewer unpleasant surprises.
  8. Gold medal employees don’t dwell on their successes. They know there’s another job to be done and quickly move on.
  9. Gold medal employees don’t assume too much. When they have doubts, they ask for clarification.
  10. Gold medal employees negotiate deals and get going. They don’t wait for numerous orders to be sure they’re doing everything exactly the way you want.

Of course, no one individual is likely to possess all of these traits. But the more a person displays, the more likely your company will reach its goals. And one gold medal staff member can be worth three mediocre employees.

What would you add to this list?  Or better yet — what do you do to make sure your employees are ready/equipped to be that good?


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