9 Intangibles Found in Stellar Employees


We’ve all had jobs we love, others we’ve hated, and some that have merely passed the time between paychecks. Our success of us as companies and employers directly relates to the culture we instill for our employees. We need to know what to look for in hiring, and no longer can we rely on sifting through a stack of resumes, setting up interviews, then asking potential candidates predetermined questions, and making a decision based on such a process. The truth is, more than ever, company culture can make or break a company. Sure, technical skills are great, but they are, for the most part, “trainable”. I can teach just about anyone to julienne a carrot, or how to properly deglaze a pan, however, getting that same person to understand the importance of teamwork, empathy, and creativity in the workplace is a lot more challenging. I firmly believe, that moving forward, success will be rooted in hiring for emotional intelligence — the things we can’t can’t quantify or often teach. However, if you peel the layers back you can see them and feel them as they impact our evolving world of business.

Vision: My first job out of grad school was an amazing, eye-opening experience, unfortunately, for all of the wrong reasons. I didn’t learn the things I had hoped to, I didn’t connect with the work in ways my boss would have liked, and as a result, I didn’t contribute in ways that were meaningful. Whose fault was that? Well, I think both of ours. It’s important to seek jobs that align with one’s vision and goals. It’s also important to have a conversation with prospective employers about your career and what you seek to gain through the experience. When I’m hiring for the kitchen, I know some are in it for the long haul, while others are passing through, on their way to run their own kitchen. Both situations are fine, as long as these employees show up in productive, helpful ways. To maximize this, takes an alignment of visions, and putting all the cards out on the table, upfront, ensuring that we’re all on the same page.

Creativity: Creativity stems from a curiosity — the desire to see things differently. It’s not only thinking outside of the box to create new products and to generate new ideas, but it’s also having a creative curiosity in order to solve problems and inefficiencies that exist within. It’s easy(ier) to brainstorm one’s self into new ideas that might move the business needle, but how one chooses to creatively problem solve the every day challenges an organization faces says a lot about how invested someone is, or is willing to be invested in your company. Look for someone with a hunger and curiosity to experience new things, and with that, you will find someone who committed to being creative. Ultimately they do this for themselves, however feel free to hop along for the ride.

Teamwork: I would say selflessness, or empathy, but I think an employer has to earn that from a worker before expecting it. How do you earn it? By creating a working environment where employees feel appreciated, empowered and like they are contributing to a “team”. When you can create this type of dynamic, people are more naturally willing to give of themselves — this isn’t just in business, it’s in life. If you are my boss, and I don’t feel that you respect me as a person, why the hell would I be generous with my time, energy and ideas? It doesn’t work like that. You, as the employer have to set a baseline, and once that’s understood, a team player is willing to go to bat for you. They are willing to fill in when someone calls in sick, and will work through the night to meet the deadline. They have developed an emotional fortitude and the ability power through when times are tough, not because they have to, but because they want to. A team player is generous in how they choose to show up to work, but it’s all predicated on. first, providing a work environment that allows for such behavior to thrive.

Drive: I think you either have it, or you don’t, and I think we all have it in different parts of our lives. In hiring somebody, it’s important to know someone’s internal drive, but also that they are driving towards the same place you, and your team. If this is the case, you’ve got yourself a winner — someone who is willing to figure out how to get to the finish line, regardless of how many wrong turns they take is worth keeping around — they see the finish line, and are determined to get there, even if they don’t quite know how to get there.

Communication: While seemingly obvious, it can be applied differently in various circumstances and situations. Often it means actively listening to what other people have to say, while other times it means having the ability to communicate my perspective in an effective manner in ways like conversation and email, however, it can also be through less tangible ways like choosing to be vulnerable by courageously broaching a difficult conversation with a coworker. The key to communication, in whatever capacity, is a clarity of what is being said. Is what I am saying being heard, am I hearing them, and is what’s being communicated understood by all parties involved?

Appreciation: I think about the people I least enjoy being around and at the top of my list would be complainers — the bitchers and moaners who always have a negative light to cast, regardless of the situation. I’m guessing you probably agree. This type of person is the exact opposite of someone who embraces appreciation. Appreciation is rooted in choosing to acknowledge the things of which we can be grateful, while also understanding that life rarely goes as planned. They recognize this as part of life, and part of work.

They are harder to disrupt, and aren’t easily deterred from accomplishing what’s in front of them, because of their ability to roll with the punches, and find the silver lining amidst the rainstorm. This attitude is contagious, and they are a joy to be around.

Grit: A lot of people confuse grit with drive, but I like to look at grit as one’s poise and relentlessness amid the struggle. To have grit is to persevere when most would hang up the towel, calling it quits. It’s seeing adversity as a challenge and part of the process in achieving success — as a result, when they are knocked down, they get back up with the same determination and fortitude as before. People with grit are fighters and will do whatever it takes to get the job done, achieve the goal, and power through. They know it’s an uphill battle, and because of this, I’ll take the gritty guy any day of the week, over just about anybody else. There’s nothing like knowing you’ve got a showing up to work every day willing to put up a fight.

Awareness: There are a multitude of ways to be both aware and self-aware, however, here I’m referring to one’s ability to look at themselves and have clarity in knowing their strengths and weaknesses, as well as having ability to identify those in the people around them. Come crunch time, when it’s time to buckle down and knock out a lunch rush on the kitchen line, or the need to work through the night on a client project with a last minute deadline, it’s important to know what I’m good at, what you might be better at, and if I’m feeling overwhelmed or uncertain, having the awareness to communicate that need for help. There is nothing more frustrating that falling behind, not communicating that to your team, and as a result, bringing the entire team down with you. You’ve got to know yourself and develop the ability to point out those same things in the people around you — what a priceless tool to have in one’s repertoire.

Enjoyable: We work for at least a third of our adult lives, often more. We spend more time with coworkers than with our spouses, kids and our best friends. If you don’t enjoy the dynamic you have with the people around you, it’s time to start asking questions like, “is it me, or them?”.

Whatever the case, find a group of folks with whom you’d enjoy spending happy hour. No, I’m not saying all the time, or even ever, but who are the people who you like being around, not because you work with them, but because you genuinely enjoy their company. Find them, hire them, work with them. It makes working late nights easier, and Monday mornings become a lot more bareable.

-Chris Hill

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