As an entrepreneur, you probably started your business with a small staff or perhaps without any staff at all. As your hard work was rewarded with success, you began hiring employees to help you handle your growing business. You may have even been successful enough to employ a human resources manager or launched an entire HR department. Having experienced, professional HR help can free you from many mundane tasks. However, the critical tasks will likely remain your responsibility for the duration of your company’s life. One of your critical responsibilities will be to identify employees who have the potential to be superstars. With careful mentoring, potential superstars may be developed who can be promoted through the ranks as your business grows. By promoting from within, you can save time and money, but you will also be reducing the risks associated with hiring someone who does not know your business and your values. Hiring outsiders as supervisors or managers can also have a negative impact on employee morale; employees may begin to view their jobs as dead-end positions and start looking for better opportunities to advance their careers. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs do not know how to identify potential superstars who are already part of the organization. The good news is that repeated studies have shown that employees with the potential to be superstars tend to share a number of attributes.
1. They have integrity. Even if it results in conflict, superstars tend to believe that honesty is the best policy. They give truthful answers to questions from bosses, coworkers, and customers, and they will volunteer information if it is in the company’s best interest to do so. Superstars will not resort to underhanded tactics to advance their own careers, and they will not make deceptive or misleading statements to secure a customer’s order or curry a supervisor’s favor.
2. They are team players. Superstars are strong believers in the concept of the common good, and they will work tirelessly to build relationships in which knowledge is shared, team members are inspired, and everyone is working toward the same goal.
3. They do not attempt to protect their own egos. Superstars know their strengths and weaknesses, and they do not hesitate to admit when they do not have an immediate answer. However, they will promptly conduct whatever research is necessary to find the answer. They own up to their mistakes instead of attempting to shift the blame, and they will look for ways to ensure that they do not repeat the same mistakes. Furthermore, they are not afraid to make mistakes; they know that mistakes can happen, and they always attempt to learn from their mistakes.
4. They handle minor issues promptly. Minor issues can turn into disasters. Superstars would rather blow out a match than fight a fire, so they will look for early solutions to little issues that could escalate. This does not mean that superstars feel that they must handle everything themselves. Instead, they will look for the person who has the greatest chance of successfully resolving the issue.
5. They always keep the big picture in mind. Superstars understand how much every department needs every other department. They know how every individual facet of the company contributes to overall success. They do not try to carve out their own strongholds, placing their own interests ahead of the company’s. Instead, they welcome the involvement of other departments or other employees if such involvement can benefit the company. Having a comprehensive view allows superstars to anticipate the issues that might manifest so that problems can be avoided.
6. They cheerfully fill in wherever and whenever they are needed. New businesses often experience growing pains. One day, you may be wondering whether you will need to reduce the hours that your production line works. The next day, you receive a large order with a short lead time. Regardless of their job title or position, superstars will step in to fill a slot on the production line, pack merchandise, prepare shipping documents, or handle any other task that will help ensure that the order goes out on time. Furthermore, they will make sure that they cover their own duties as well.
7. They are reliable. Superstars do what they say they will do. If they tell you that a report will be on your desk by morning, it will be there. If they tell a customer that an order will be shipped no later than a specified date, superstars will make sure that it ships on time. When they start projects, they finish them. You can always depend on superstars to keep their word and honor their commitments.
8. They show initiative. Superstars do not sit idle while waiting for you to tell them what to do. They look for issues and address them. Whether a coworker needs assistance, the trash cans need to be emptied, the magazines in the lobby need to be straightened, or the office floor needs to be swept, superstars with free time will voluntarily take care of the tasks. If they know that you plan to hire a contractor to upgrade your electrical system, they will research local contractors and prepare a list of reputable companies to speed up your selection process. If they notice that a process could be streamlined, they will bring it to your attention, and they will often produce notes, sketches, or a list of the pros and cons of adopting their solutions.
9. They are excellent teachers and mentors. Superstars do not jealously protect their knowledge. Instead, they are more than happy to share information with their coworkers. When superstars take vacation time, their substitutes will know where important files are kept, what tasks should receive the highest priorities, and who they should call if they have questions or encounter difficulties. If you need someone to train a newly hired employee, you can count on your superstar. Superstars have the ability to teach virtually anything to virtually anyone. They can take a complex, technical subject and translate it into terms that are easily understood. Superstars never chide or lose patience with their students; instead, they offer encouragement and support.
10. They maintain a healthy balance between their careers and their personal lives. They know that they must protect their physical and emotional health to be effective at work, so they do not overdo things. They work hard, but they do not spend every weekend and every holiday toiling at the office. They use their vacation time, take sick days when they must, and they maintain active social and family lives.
11. They seldom accept that a process is best because it is the way that it has always been done. Every time superstars tackle a task, they look for ways to perform the task more efficiently, more accurately, or with fewer people and less money. If they can find no way to improve on the process, they will adhere to the traditional method. However, the next time they handle the same task, they will again evaluate whether there is a better way to complete the process.
12. They know how to present viable propositions. Superstars do not blurt out every thought that crosses their minds. Before they vocalize an idea, they will consider what resources the company has, how the company can benefit, and how the idea would impact employees, vendors, and customers if it is implemented. Superstars present executable, viable, thoughtful plans that they can explain in great detail.
True superstars are relatively rare, and just because someone was a superstar at his or her previous place of employment, you should not automatically assume that he or she will reach superstar status at your company. However, if you have reason to believe that a candidate or current employee has the potential to become a superstar, you might want to take the time to determine whether you are correct. After all, superstars are extraordinary employees that can help your company achieve greater success.