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The four skills and qualities employers always want - and how to develop them.

The four skills and qualities employers always want – and how to develop them

Of all the qualities and skills that lead to good performance at work in these challenging times, there are four that, provided you’ve got the required hard skills of your trade, can make you a star employee. The majority of the best candidates, employees and leaders I’ve met have these qualities in spades. And the great thing is, each of them can be developed - you can learn them.

Be organised

Being organised makes you better at every professional role that exists. It is also a skill that can improve quality of life as well as your experience of work, because it helps you maintain control - an aid in reducing stress and stress-related illnesses such as depression.

How to be more organised

Do you write yourself off as “not an organised person”? Many people do, but it’s easy to identify actions you can take that will help you improve, so let’s have a quick look at some things organised people do.


Prioritising is a skill many people find hard to learn. When you’re in the middle of the daily grind, it’s easy to lose perspective when others around you all want a piece of your time, each thinking their demand is your most urgent task. The best way through this is to have clear communication with your manager and understand the key objectives for your business and department. There are lots of prioritisation tools available on the web; one way to prioritise is to focus on quick wins that provide high impact but require little effort, with time dedicated to longer-term projects that have high impact but require more effort. Leave low impact, low effort tasks to the bottom of your to do list and avoid low impact, high effort tasks completely if you can. Easier said than done, I know.

Keeping a default diary

A default diary is a great tool for anyone who has specific tasks or areas of focus every week (and who doesn’t?). Put slots in your diary for your regular tasks and make sure that at the allotted time, you are doing them. You’re not allowed to slip unless you have no choice, and if you really must put your two hours of filing or client calls back by a day, make sure you still fulfil that commitment tomorrow.

Activity-chunking (email and distraction management) 

You can use a default diary to chunk activities into useful sessions, and there are few better ways to buy back time and efficiency than to limit your sessions on email or other messaging platforms to specific times of the day or week. Email and messaging burns vast amounts of time and attention – research has shown that it takes more than 20 minutes to regain focus when we shift from deep concentration on a task to a distracting email, which may not warrant our attention in that moment at all.

Goal setting

Regularly take time out to sit down and organise yourself, because being organised is a task in itself that requires dedicated time. If you can, try to plan your diary up to 3, 6 or even 12 months ahead. I plan for a year, and have a strong idea of my key activities for every quarter. 


For managers and leaders, this is an obvious one. Focus on where you’re strong, and learn to recognise that when you manage a team, the success of others is your success. Surround yourself with people who have their finger on the pulse, whether that means knowledge of new systems and new ways of doing things, deep sector expertise or the experience to know what works and what doesn’t.

Be resilient

Resilience is essential if we’re to survive the challenges of the modern workplace and the continuing need to change, refresh ourselves and adapt to new and unforeseen challenges.

How to be more resilient

As highly emotional creatures, few of us are naturally resilient, but we can all become more so. It’s not about discovering hidden funds of resilience inside ourselves, but rather, of actions we can take that limit stress and negative thinking.


For me, that is sharing my challenges and worries with a support network. When the chips are down it’s easy to lose perspective; a friend can offer reassurance and a sanity check when you feel yourself losing your coordinates.

Build stress-blockers

Exercise and a healthy diet also helps to reduce stress and improve resilience. Developing interpersonal skills inside and outside of work can help, as you learn to understand and deal with a broader variety of people. Immersion in hobbies and leisure that provide mental stimulus outside of work can also fend off stress.

Be you

On a personal note, I think it helps me to be the same person – the real me – in and out of work. I know some people choose to adopt a mask, often being “harder” at work than they are at home. Work armour isn’t for me, because I find pretending to be something I’m not is stressful in itself.

Be credible

What is credibility? The word means the quality of being trusted in or believable. Credibility is your ability to persuade and connect with people authentically. It’s about how people perceive your character.

How to be more credible

One of the most successful people I have worked with is a professor and a hugely skilled individual. Despite usually being the smartest guy in the room, in our occasional meetings he never claims to know everything. If he doesn’t have an answer to a question, he’s the first to admit it and instead will promise to find one - and he always does. That builds trust and respect.

Listen and learn

Credibility is built through your knowledge and expertise, your ability to ask questions and listen well, your honesty and respect for your peers and your generosity with your knowledge, skills and time.

Be the best you can be

So to be credible, just be the best you that you can be. Learn as much as you can about your field. Listen to your colleagues and be honest if you don’t know something. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Remember the qualities in others that make them trustworthy to you.

Be effective

Effectiveness means achieving the desired outcome. Effective people are focused, driven, good at marshalling their resources and never lose sight of their goal.  

How to be more effective

So is it hard to become more effective? I’d say developing all the skills and qualities mentioned above will help.

Know your mission

Make sure you know what success looks like to your manager and board. If you can learn to think like your manager, you’re in with a good chance of pleasing them.  

Be tenacious

To be effective, you need focus. That means always having your end goal in sight and pursuing it with passion.

Seek the sparks

I talked earlier about the importance of being organised. It will help you to become more effective, but shouldn’t mean you become a slave to process. In my industry, to be effective you need to generate sparks, and know when to follow those sparks. That’s the final aspect of effectiveness: the energy and instinct to know when to go with your gut.

If you like this blog, please share it! Thanks for reading, and have a great festive break and a happy and successful 2020!

- Helen

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