Help Others Learn:

How Do You Define a Successful Career?

We surveyed 29 professionals and experts and asked them what traits make an employee successful.

Our professionals ranged from supervisors to district managers to vice presidents to owners that span across retail, restaurant, education, religious, law enforcement, and other sectors.

We asked 3 questions:

  1. What skills, traits, or habits have you found that the most successful employees have?
  2. What habits or traits have you found that hurt an employee’s success the most?
  3. If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to excel in their career, what would it be?

Their answers? Priceless.

I initially wanted to “analyze” and try to give a summary of common themes. But, after going through the responses, I realized that you would probably get the most benefit from reading each individual’s response.

You will notice common themes, but you will also notice, for different sectors and from different people’s experiences, specific suggestions that can add great value to your career.

You may want to read the list multiple times and come back later and read again. There are so many gems in these answers that, if you take the time to examine yourself and follow this advice, you will excel in your career.

What to do as you read

First, get out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Then ask the following questions:

For question 1, ask “Which of these do I need to work on?”

For question 2, ask “Do I have or display any of these habits or traits?”

For question 3, ask “Which if these do I need to start applying in my life?”

As you ask the questions, write the answers down. Then look at your list and examine the areas where you need to improve. Set a goal, make a plan, write it down, and do it. Do something daily to move you toward your goal and toward greater success.

Now, let’s look at the answers.

Note: In the survey, I did not specify how to answer or in what format. You will see some quick to the point answers and full paragraphs. I did make some minor formatting, punctuation and spelling changes when copying it to this post, but the answers are theirs. 

 

Question 1: What skills, traits, or habits have you found that the most successful employees have?


Communication, teamwork, honesty, and reliable.
– Melissa Smith –  Bookstore Manager – Southern Crescent Technical College


 


Integrity, work ethic, dedication, good people skills, problem solver, team player, common sense, dedication and loyalty to organization.
– Denise S. Burrell – Former High School Principal; member of Board of Education – Pike County School System


 


Desire to learn, ability to learn, work ethic to take what they’ve learned and put it into practice.
– Kyle Van Pelt – VP of Partnerships – Riskalyze


 


The ability to work well in a team and strive for success for the betterment of the department, not just personal growth or advancement.
– Patricia Gates – eCommerce Manager – Dynacraft Wheels


 


Organization
Communication
Loyalty
Integrity
Honesty
Work ethic
Service above self
– Tony Thomason – Chief Deputy – Spalding County Sheriff’s Department


 


Resourcefulness, punctuality, humility.
– Corey Bartlett – Field Supervisor – ASCO


 


The Helpful associate vs the helpless associate.

(Note: After Sam filled out the survey, he messaged me explaining further about the helpful vs. the helpless associate.)

Helpful is going to step up and help others always. Puts their own needs behind the goal of the team’s needs. They are on time, never making excuses, and present solutions to problems.
– Sam Norman – District Manager – Waffle House


 


Persistence and the ability to accept coaching.
 – Ashley Stapleton – Undisclosed


 


Punctuality and the ability to effectively communicate with customers and coworkers. Taking pride in their work.
– John Duncan – President/Owner – Holloway’s Tire & Auto Service, Inc.


 


Flexibility
Loyalty
Like minded foundational values
Critical thinking
– Doug Doran – Vice President & General Manager – Life Radio Ministries, Inc./NewLife FM


 


The ability to show up and work hard every day.
– Timothy Meeks – Project management – Marek


 


To me the most successful employees are the ones with passion for what they do or the company they represent. Skills can be taught but when you have a person that believes in what they are doing, loves what they are doing, and owns what they are doing you will have a great employee.
– Scott Floyd – Maintenance Supervisor – Southern Crescent Technical College


 


Self-motivated, passionate about the job, good time management, punctual.
– Adam Vinson – Middle School Principal – Trinity Christian School


 


Critical thinking/reasoning; Operational Agility; Executive Presence; Inclusiveness; Mindfulness … I’d also add passion and curiosity…
– Jason Thogmartin – Undisclosed


 


Employees that have a willingness to want to help other people and are willing to share knowledge, not for personal gain but because they truly love helping people.
– Michael Shiver – CIO – Southern Crescent Technical College


 


Honest, hardworking. Main feature is they are committed to job and company.
– Terry Graham – Plant Manager (Retired) – Continental


 


Mechanical skills, attitude, they are interested in what they are doing.
– Steven Villanova – Foreman – Inglett and Stubbs


 


Willingness to learn, time management, communication & interpersonal skills, desire to improve.
– Donald Raymond – Portfolio Project Manager – Cargill


 


Patience in learning the job.
– Randy – Product Development & Quality – Covile Inc.


 


Good attitude, organized, well trained, clear expectations, they understand the vision and how their role helps to support that.
– Cindy Watson – Children’s Ministry Director – Heatherwood BC


 


Organization is extremely helpful, especially in a high pace multi-level position.
– Steve White – Manager – Kay Jewelers


 


Communication skills and being able to multi-task.
– Ellie Calderon – Assistant Manager – Sally Beauty


 


Strong work ethic, promptness, willingness to stay after hours, go beyond expectations, over-communicates.
– Michael Greene – Associate Minister of Music and Media – Abilene Baptist Church


 


Good communication skills, good work ethic, prompt and on-time attendance. Works independently and as a part of a team. Good manners, clean/good hygiene, adaptable and flexible. Willing to do what it takes to get the job done. Understands, respects and believes in the companies vision and goal and works with those in mind. Leads when necessary and follows also when necessary.
– Henry Petit – Vice President – Square One Signs, Inc.


 


My most successful employees regularly show up a few minutes early for work. They are humble and teachable. They are team players, always willing to take on more responsibility, and are often the one’s who try and out work everyone around them and quick to do the tasks no one else wants to do.
– Tyler Buckles – District Manager – Waffle House


 


Self Motivated
Able to problem solve
Share common goals
Willing to rise early
Know Office Suite (software)
Are teachable
– Jonathan Swatts – District Director – Calcasieu Area Council, Boy Scouts


 


Dependable and take initiative to do what needs to be done without being told.
– Richard Fritsche – Warehouse Manager – Profoam Corp


 


There are a lot of desirable traits, but here are three that I tend to see in the most outstanding employees in the organizations I’ve worked in:

  1. Committed: successful employees are committed to the company’s mission, to their work team, and to their own success. They stick it out during the hard times.
  2. Flexible: successful employees never say, “That’s not my job.” Instead, they say, “I’ve never done that before, but I’m willing to learn and get it done for the good of the team.”
  3. Curious: successful employees want to know all they can about their job, their coworkers, where they fit in the bigger scheme of things. They use that knowledge to get the job done better and encourage others to do the same.
    – Jeff Oakes – Management Analyst – US Government

 


  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Ability to prioritize tasks
  • Ability to understand the WHY, not just the WHAT and HOW
  • Being truly passionate about the field you are working in
    – Ashley McDaniel – CFO – Liberty Technology

 

Question 2: What habits or traits have you found that hurt an employee’s success the most?


Neglecting core responsibilities and not looking out for how their actions impact co-workers/others.
– Melissa Smith –  Bookstore Manager – Southern Crescent Technical College


 


Absenteeism, not a team player, narcissistic, lack of loyalty to organization, failure to give job tasks time needed.
– Denise S. Burrell – Former High School Principal; member of Board of  Education – Pike County School System


 


Entitlement, unrealistic expectations, trying to do a job that isn’t what they were hired to do.
– Kyle Van Pelt – VP of Partnerships – Riskalyze


 


Too much drive for personal success can be detrimental to the employee’s success in the long run. You cannot build a career in 2 years. It takes time, the employee must be PATIENT and know how important it is to gain experience. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Too much drive to succeed too early in your career can hurt you.
– Patricia Gates – eCommerce Manager – Dynacraft Wheels


 


Self-centered
Oblivious to organization mission
Poor customer service
Abuse of leave time
Refusal to own failure
Blame others for failure
Promote self at others expense
False flattery giver
– Tony Thomason – Chief Deputy – Spalding County Sheriff’s Department


 


Pride, laziness, lack of punctuality
– Corey Bartlett – Field Supervisor – ASCO


 


They are helpless.

(Note: Sam also explained more about the helpless associate in his message)

The helpless associate is late, always blaming others and always presents problems to the manager.
– Sam Norman – District Manager – Waffle House


 


Getting distracted by the little things that do not matter. They lose their focus on the goal.
– Ashley Stapleton – Undisclosed


 


A false sense of entitlement. Lack of punctuality and constantly bringing personal problems to work.
– John Duncan – President/Owner – Holloway’s Tire & Auto Service, Inc.


 


Lack of ingenuity
Lack of Team mentality
Fear of Failure
– Doug Doran – Vice President & General Manager – Life Radio Ministries, Inc./NewLife FM


 


Lack of commitment
– Timothy Meeks – Project management – Marek


 


If someone is just working for a paycheck then I feel you don’t have the full commitment needed from them to be successful.
– Scott Floyd – Maintenance Supervisor – Southern Crescent Technical College


 


Lack of time management, lack of motivation to do the job, failure to follow directions.
– Adam Vinson – Middle School Principal – Trinity Christian School


 


Lack of awareness of how one’s position fits into the overall firm, poor presence/communication skills, lack of professional maturity, lack of passion/interest … all of this drives poor outcomes in execution and delivery.

– Jason Thogmartin – Undisclosed


 


“Going underground”, keeping knowledge to yourself to help make you “look” more important.
-Michael Shiver – CIO – Southern Crescent Technical College


 


Don’t care attitude.
– Terry Graham – Plant Manager (Retired) – Continental


 


Lying and a know it all.
– Steven Villanova – Foreman – Inglett and Stubbs


 


Self-confidence, short temper, resistant to change, sense of superiority and/or unwillingness to be wrong.
– Donald Raymond – Portfolio Project Manager – Cargill


 


Thinking they know all about tasks before they begin the task.
– Randy – Product Development & Quality – Covile Inc.


 


Bad attitude or they are just there for a paycheck, don’t catch the vision or don’t view their job as important. They do not do their best.
– Cindy Watson – Children’s Ministry Director – Heatherwood BC


 


Motivation if one doesn’t have it the success will not happen.
– Steve White – Manager – Kay Jewelers


 


Bad customer service skills and not being able to multi-task.
– Ellie Calderon – Assistant Manager – Sally Beauty


 


Struggles to be on time, leaves before job is finished, raises questions without giving possible solutions, is satisfied with satisfactory, disagreeable.
– Michael Greene – Associate Minister of Music and Media – Abilene Baptist Church


 


Pride, envy, bitterness, dishonesty, deflecting blame and not admitting fault, having a bad attitude. Basically the opposite of what I just previously described as a successful employee.
– Henry Petit – Vice President – Square One Signs, Inc.


 


Being late.
Blaming others for mistakes or customer complaints.
Being overly concerned about others not doing as much work as them.
Know-it-All’s.
– Tyler Buckles – District Manager – Waffle House


 


Stubbornness
Stop trying new things
Procrastinate
Do not communicate items that impact others
Gossip
Fail drug test
Consider themselves more important that others
– Jonathan Swatts – District Director – Calcasieu Area Council, Boy Scouts


 


Not showing up to work on time, standing around, staying on the phone.
– Richard Fritsche – Warehouse Manager – Profoam Corp


 


Bad Attitude: a bad attitude at work brings coworkers down, and over time, isolates employees socially. Everyone has the occasional bad day, but people will go out of their way to avoid a coworker who is always cynical and acts defeated.
Rigidity: the opposite of flexibility, rigidity says that you’ll only do your job your way, on your conditions. I have seen people go around rigid employees at shut them out of work processes just so they wouldn’t have to deal with them.
– Jeff Oakes – Management Analyst – US Government


 


  • Complacency
  • Lack of communication
  • Not passionate by what they do
  • Not properly trained/onboarded by their manager
    – Ashley McDaniel – CFO – Liberty Technology

 

 Question 3: If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to excel in their career, what would it be?


Learn how to effectively communicate and how to resolve issues with any various types of personalities. Being able to communicate and resolve conflict with others will allow you to be an asset to any type of role within an organization.
– Melissa Smith –  Bookstore Manager – Southern Crescent Technical College


 


Work hard. Play nice. Be loyal to the organization. Find solutions to the problem.
– Denise S. Burrell – Former High School Principal; member of Board of Education – Pike County School System


 


Find a way to give value to people who are where you want to ultimately be, value learning over earning early on and build TRUE relationships with as many professionals as you can.
– Kyle Van Pelt – VP of Partnerships – Riskalyze


 


Keep your head down and put as much value as possible on gaining experience. Experience is more important than a high salary (early in your career). The more experience you can gather, the better off you will be later. So, do everything your department head expects you to do, and some more so you can get as much experience as possible. Go the extra mile, not for the promotion, but for the experience.
– Patricia Gates – eCommerce Manager – Dynacraft Wheels


 


Reflect prayerfully and ensure it’s the right thing. Then apply yourself 100% using short and long term goals. Reflect on failure and do not allow the same failure to occur again. Share accolades.
– Tony Thomason – Chief Deputy – Spalding County Sheriff’s Department


 


Be there, and be on time.
– Corey Bartlett – Field Supervisor – ASCO


 


Be helpful.
(Note: Read his answer to the first question for an eplanation of his answer).
– Sam Norman – District Manager – Waffle House


 


Don’t quit.
– Ashley Stapleton – Undisclosed


 


Get there early and stay late if necessary. Don’t wait to be told what to do. If you see something that needs to be done, take the initiative to do it without being told. Constantly look for ways to expand tour knowledge or skill set.
– John Duncan – President/Owner – Holloway’s Tire & Auto Service, Inc.


 


Seek to learn as much as you can about your job and all others in your business. Be the best at what you do, always.
– Doug Doran – Vice President & General Manager – Life Radio Ministries, Inc./NewLife FM


 


Be willing to work harder than anyone else and continue to do so day in and day out and you will be successful.
– Timothy Meeks – Project management – Marek


 


Get what education is needed for the field you choose but choose a field that is a career for you and not just a job. Own what you are responsible for and make it excellent. Always remember, excellence does not require perfection.
– Scott Floyd – Maintenance Supervisor – Southern Crescent Technical College


 


Pursue something you are passionate about doing and feel you are skilled to do.
– Adam Vinson – Middle School Principal – Trinity Christian School


 


Be passionate and focused on what you are doing today and do it the best you can and you will position yourself well for what is to come tomorrow.
– Jason Thogmartin – Undisclosed


 


Don’t try to copy someone but make it yours.
– Michael Shiver – CIO – Southern Crescent Technical College


 


Get involved and take responsibility for the job.
– Terry Graham – Plant Manager (Retired) – Continental


 


Listen, ask questions if you don’t understand, care about what you are doing, when walking somewhere walk with a purpose, move with a purpose, don’t stroll around with no purpose.
– Steven Villanova – Foreman – Inglett and Stubbs


 


Partner with those that excel in areas you lack expertise; find at least one mentor; never be afraid to fail, and try at least once every day to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation; set attainable goals, and update them regularly.
– Donald Raymond – Portfolio Project Manager – Cargill


 


Approach the job with an open mind. Be flexible when tasks assigned gets changed or get pulled off to do something else.
– Randy – Product Development & Quality – Covile Inc.


 


Always be improving and updating your skills.
– Cindy Watson – Children’s Ministry Director – Heatherwood BC


 


Hard work pays off. Do the things other might not! The little things can take you on an upward path!
– Steve White – Manager – Kay Jewelers


 


Always try to keep the customers happy. If you can’t figure something out, try to make an effort to do whatever you can.
– Ellie Calderon – Assistant Manager – Sally Beauty


 


Always learn and grow.
– Michael Greene – Associate Minister of Music and Media – Abilene Baptist Church


 


Make yourself irreplaceable.
– Henry Petit – Vice President – Square One Signs, Inc.


 


Find someone you admire and respect who excels in your career and ask them to mentor you.
– Tyler Buckles – District Manager – Waffle House


 


Master your craft – learn from others that have been very successful and put their knowledge to work. No one else has your dream… you have to work each day to bring it one step closer.
– Jonathan Swatts – District Director – Calcasieu Area Council, Boy Scouts


 


Be willing to go the extra mile to do a job right and be flexible to change.
– Richard Fritsche – Warehouse Manager – Profoam Corp


 


Do well at your own job, and then look for ways to improve your skills that also align with your company’s mission. By taking initiative and showing that you are willing to put in extra effort, you’ll stand out.
– Jeff Oakes – Management Analyst – US Government


 


  • Do what you love
  • Take chances, don’t be afraid to ask questions or speak up for what you want and believe in
  • Read books and continue to work on self-development outside of work
    – Ashley McDaniel – CFO – Liberty Technology

Apply it

You have the answers on how to be successful. Make sure to apply it. This post has a lot of great information that can improve your life, but it won’t do you any good unless you follow through. Set a plan, write it down, and do it.

What changes are you going to make in your life now?

 



We have created a worksheet to help guide you through the questions above. Enter your email address below, and we will send you the link to the worksheet:

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