Monday Mornings with Madison


Blogs, e-zines and videos are endlessly touting the best — and worst – qualities in a boss or employee. Among the best qualities cited are intelligence, knowledge, experience, strong work ethic, positive attitude, integrity and people skills. These are qualities everyone should hope to emulate and exemplify. On the other end of the spectrum are the worst qualities for a manager or staff. Those include pettiness, sneakiness, poor temperament and the belief that they know it all.

Of course, there is a plethora of characteristics that lie somewhere in the vast gray area between best and worst qualities. But what about the characteristics that fall ‘under the radar’… qualities that are seldom spoken of or praised yet are very important and greatly contribute to the individual and organization’s success? That is our focus today. Below is our list of the top 8 most underrated qualities.

Humility – The definition of being humble is someone who is not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive. This is a person who reflects, expresses and contributes to others with a spirit of deference and esteem. It stands to reason that people would appreciate working with or for a person who is humble. Yet our society encourages and rewards swagger, arrogance and overconfidence while often overlooking and sometimes even rejecting humility. If two equally-qualified applicants interview for a job and one person is humble while the other brags unabashedly about their many accomplishments, typically the boastful one is most likely to be hired. Yet it is the humble one who would be most likely to get along with coworkers, bring out the best in staff, and fit best within the organizational culture.

Consistency – People with lesser skills often excel simply because they consistently perform the fundamentals. The most successful bloggers consistently produce quality, thought-provoking posts daily or weekly. While every post may not be award-winning, they post consistently. The same is true of successful athletes, who typically never miss a practice. Malcolm Gladwell, in his best-selling book The Outliers, quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin who reviewed countless studies and concluded, “The emerging picture from such studies is that 10,000 hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything.” The key to logging 10,000 hours of doing any particular thing is consistency. The path of consistency leads to excellence because, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.  The best employees are those who are consistent in their work.

Ability to delegate – The ability to let go and hand off tasks to others is highly underrated. People think that an employee willing to take on any task at any time is highly desirable, and that a manager who is involved in the day-to-day tasks of the entire organization is admirable. Yet, in an organization, it is important that each person focus on tasks that the person is specifically supposed to do and is best qualified to handle. If another person’s work constantly eats into a manager or employee’s time, then someone else should fill that role. This is a particularly important, yet underrated, quality in a leader. Leaders should hire people smarter than themselves in each area of expertise. Delegating is about deferring to others for their domain expertise and then trusting in their decisions.

Reliability – This quality is underrated in that few recognize how much it impacts the overall organization. Someone reliable is one who others can count on to be there and can be depended upon without “hidden agendas.” Reliability speaks to accuracy; that what is said can be trusted to be true and what is promised, gets done. In every team, reliability increases and enlarges the capacity of the team. Reliability multiplies the capability and impacts the competence of a team. Reliability gifts and graces the team with trustworthiness and, ultimately, influence and authority. Reliability is probably one of the most important qualities for anyone who works in a team.

Courage – This may be the most underrated characteristic of effective managers. It isn’t taught in grad school or written about by management gurus. Yet, it takes courage to lead rather than manage. It takes courage to speak what you know people need to hear, in a way that they can hear it, rather than what you know they want to hear. It takes courage to keep commitments rather than find easy outs. It takes courage to report a bad quarter rather than ‘massage’ the numbers. It takes courage to develop a vision and then share it with the entire organization, trusting that while the competition might read about that vision, they have no hope of getting there first.

Ethical – Ethics is about behavior. In the face of dilemma, the ethical person knows and chooses to do the right thing. Ethical people say “no” to individual gain if it is inconsistent with institutional benefit and goodwill. They give a fair return for the energy and effort expended by others. They make decisions objectively and uniformly, without special treatment. They recognize there is something beyond oneself more permanent and powerful than the individual and are not driven by self-interest. They consistently do what is right without concern for personal consequences, even when it is not easy.

Generosity – The generous person shares with others time, money or energy when it is needed selflessly and joyfully, with no concern about being taken advantage of or receiving something in return. This is a not only an underrated quality; it is a very unusual one, especially at work. After all, people are paid to work so tasks performed are already being compensated. But the generous person will cheerfully go above and beyond the call of duty without expectation of promotion, reward or even notice. That behavior sets an example for others that is invaluable to any organization.

Niceness – This may be the most underrated of the underrated qualities. While no one wants to work with someone who is not nice, niceness is a highly underrated– sometimes even unnoticed — characteristic in a coworker or colleague . Niceness is not praised nor encouraged in business. In fact, perhaps the opposite is true. The saying goes that “nice guys finish last.” A nice person might be misperceived as being naïve, dim or a fool. Colleagues will try to take advantage of ‘the nice guy.’ It is also a quality that is overused. Anyone who is even mildly pleasant is considered ‘nice’. However, a truly ‘nice’ person is one who is always pleasant, polite and kind. The nice coworker will go out of their way to help another even when it is inconvenient and there is nothing to gain. It may actually be hard to find a genuinely nice person.

 Do your colleagues or employees possess these underrated qualities? If so, praise them for it. These valuable qualities generally go unappreciated and unrewarded. If your staff doesn’t possess these characteristics, create situations that encourage them or hire people that possess them. As for yourself, demonstrate these qualities to your organization to be more successful. After all, success is never underrated!

“A great man is made up of qualities that meet or make great occasions.” James Russell Lowell

© 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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