A roundtable of prominent CEOs was asked an intriguing question: what makes an irreplaceable employee? How would you describe this person? You might think their answer would cite extraordinary skills, a great educational background or industry certifications. But instead, the CEOs listed three different attributes:
A drama-free personality. The idea here is that people who create drama are essentially selfish, and low-drama employees typically have a high commitment to perform their job well without needing a lot of personal attention, without needing people to know what a great job they’re doing.
Operational focus. This means they are committed to great execution of whatever it is that needs to be done. There are people who talk about ideas, but ideas are everywhere. There is a huge difference between coming up with thoughts and ideas, or having great intention, and actually getting things done. The most irreplaceable employees know that nothing matters until it is implemented and achieving results. They are masters of follow-through.
Confidence and internal motivation. Okay, those are two things, but they kind of overlap. The irreplaceable employees are confident enough to receive and internalize positive or negative feedback and alter their actions as a result. They are self-motivated to be the best at whatever they’re doing, and they don’t allow anything to get in their way.
The CEOs were asked why they don’t just hire only people with these traits, but the problem is that they’re not easy to spot in an interview process. Words, and saying the right thing, isn’t necessarily an indicator that the person sitting across the desk is drama-free, focused on operational excellence, confident and internally motivated. Everybody pretends to have those traits; you only know if they do when they’re let loose in the workplace. And those people, alas, also seem to be kind of rare.