During GovLoop’s recent NextGen online training, we surveyed over 1,000 people and found that 99 percent think they can be better employees. But how? We heard from Jack Bienko, Acting Director for Entrepreneurship Education at the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Kirstin Austin, Manager of Workforce Development at the Department of Homeland Security, as they discussed 10 traits that every valuable employee should have.
1. Be a team player
There’s no I in team! But really, there isn’t. Sometimes even when you aren’t directly involved in a project, or the task isn’t listed under your job description, you may have to chip in and help out. You’d want someone to help you out, wouldn’t you? You may need to learn a new role or contribute to a project even if it doesn’t completely align with your skillset.
If you do get asked to help on a new project, don’t see it as a hassle or added work. See it as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow.
And, in general, be an adaptable and flexible worker. You may need to adapt your personal style to your boss’s expectations or to finish a project in a certain way. Remember, your team has common goals, so be willing to adapt to accomplish them.
2. Have a winning attitude
Bienko compared this statement to players on the basketball court. Players and employees alike need to have a competitive spirit to do the absolute best they can. You need to bring energy to your position, projects and team, while staying focused on your tasks and intended outcome. It’s important to have a healthy commitment to excellence, while also having good sportsmanship and being professional. Have the expectation that both you and your colleagues will deliver quality and maintain a positive attitude —regardless of the outcome.
3. Be adventurous
How can you be adventurous while at work? Unless your work involves skydiving or bungee jumping, this may seem like a tip that doesn’t apply to you. But it does. Being adventurous isn’t referring strictly to physical adventures but also the notion of creative thinking. You have to be adventurous in the way you approach problems. There is often more than one approach or answer to a problem and more than one perspective to be addressed (especially in public service).
Resources may be scarce when given a project, so traditional approaches may not be available. You have to learn to think outside the box and look at problems from different angles. To be adventurous, you must get outside your comfort zone and push yourself so that you can continue to learn and grow and constantly have a fresh perspective. If a team is using a new approach that you are unfamiliar with, will you be adventurous enough to volunteer to contribute?
4. Have passion
Passion is key in public service. Find something that you deeply care about and pursue it.
“Passion and commitment ultimately are key difference makers if you’re going to contribute as a star employee, a leader and a great public servant,” Bienko said. “We have big opportunities, big ideas, talented people and new tools here in the public. Can your passion connect all those dots to drive new improvements on behalf of the U.S. government?”
5. Be self-motivated
If you don’t put in the time to rely on external motivators and guidance, your motivation to do your best may be lacking. It’s important to seek ways to continue to grow and achieve in your career. You may need to put in some extra hours or brainstorm a different solution to get past a present roadblock. Sometimes, you’ll have to rely on internal motivators and work for the benefit of your team.
6. Be self-aware
Austin began this discussion with the ancient Greek aphorism, “Know thyself.” To know yourself, you must be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. This way, you can apply your strengths and develop your weaknesses. You should seek to improve by asking questions and requesting training or mentoring.
Being adaptable is key to self-awareness. Know what you are successful at, and if you get an assignment that doesn’t utilize those strengths, be able to ask for help and adapt your techniques to meet expectations.
7. Be self-disciplined
Deliver on your commitments. This applies to your commitments to your boss, your teammates and across your organization. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. The process may not always be easy, but use your resources and be creative to figure out how to accomplish a project when you say you will.
Take the bull by the horns. If you realize something is going wrong, fix it. Face the problem squarely. Bring the problem to the appropriate people’s attention, and present options for how to solve the issue. Be sure to attack the problem before it gets bigger. Be proactive, not reactive.
8. Keep learning
Work your learning into your schedule and don’t be passive about it. Set a time on your schedule to spend X amount of hours learning a week. Brain research indicates that doing something totally different will create new neurons in your brain that will bring new energy into your everyday work. Keeping your brain active will make you more well-rounded for work.
What if you don’t feel like you have enough learning opportunities at your disposal? Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Ask for new development opportunities. If you see an opportunity, ask if you can participate. Even if your manager says no, have perseverance to continue to ask when opportunities arise. You never know when the perfect opportunity will work out.
9. Have integrity
Treating people with respect is key in the workplace. “Assume the best about everybody you’re working with,” Austin advised. She has learned to treat all colleagues and their ideas with respect. Research shows that people who are respectful, polite and giving do better in the long-run than those who attack others.
Don’t use “I’m only being honest” as an excuse to be rude. If you need to point out a weakness, do it with respect. Acknowledge the person and have appreciation for his idea before you state your opinion.
10. Expand your network
Get outside your comfort zone and get to know all kinds of people in your organization and across the government. This will make your work-life balance more fun while expanding your network of resources. This plethora of resources will also make you a more valuable asset to your boss, who may not have the same connections. As you receive information from others, be sure to be generous with your time and ideas as well.
Originally posted on GovLoop by Steph Drahozal.