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7 Traits of Outstanding Executives

An executive is a person with senior managerial responsibility in a business organisation. When I was first employed as an executive, I did not realise this. In fact, it was not until years later when I heard my new boss telling a new colleague, “You were not employed as an officer, you’re an executive!” that I realised those titles actually meant something…or at least were intended to.

It is easy to assume that every executive who is employed in a company desires to be effective, and knows how to achieve this. After all, they applied for the job, didn’t they?

You only have to look closely at the employment process, and the performance of successful candidates afterwards, to realise that this is simply not the case. Unlike the days when organisations merely employed officers to do grunt work, these days, employers seek to raise productivity levels by creating entry-level executive positions. They do this in hopes of eliminating spoon-feeding, deliberately seeking to recruit qualified people who can take charge and work with minimum supervision.

In spite of this, stories have been told of candidates who showed up at interviews not even knowing what the company did, or what the position they were applying for entailed. The sad reality is that many young graduates just want jobs; only a few are concerned with contributing tangibly to the growth of the organisation.

The most outstanding employees everywhere you look are not necessarily the most hard working ones, but the most effective ones. What does it mean to be effective?

To be effective is to be adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result; successful in producing a desired or intended result. What qualities set outstanding employees apart from the rest?

1. They train themselves in effectiveness. Outstanding employees know that effectiveness is not a talent anyone is born with; it is a habit, and everyone can learn it.

2. They are great managers of time. Outstanding executives know where their time goes. They don’t breeze through the day without being able to account for how they spent it. Rather, they work methodically at managing whatever amount of time can be brought under their control.

3. They are result-oriented people. Outstanding executives are not work-oriented. Instead of coming at a project thinking of the work involved and focusing on the tools, they think about what is expected of them and what they can contribute. This opens the door for them to be innovative and come up with creative new ways to deliver, unlike the colleague whose focus is just the “work”.

4. They build on strength. Outstanding executives don’t waste time on their weaknesses or the weaknesses of others. They build on their strengths and harness the strengths of others – superiors, colleagues and subordinates alike – to reach their goals. In other words, they make strength productive.

5. They have learnt to concentrate. Outstanding executives have cultivated the habit of doing first things first. They don’t merely set priorities and stick to them; they have learnt the art of deciding what NOT to tackle, and stick to that too. By concentrating on the major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results, they brand themselves as achievers.

6. They make decisions effectively. Making decisions that significantly impact the entire organisation is something that is expected of executives, by virtue of their position and knowledge. However, outstanding employees avoid making many decisions fast – something that often leads to making the wrong decisions – and focus instead on making a few fundamental decisions based on the right strategy.

7. Excellence is their natural habitat. When I was a young teenager I read a book titled The Good Student and one quote has stayed with me: “Not doing more than average is what keeps the average down.” The outstanding employee operates with this mindset. They know that there shouldn’t be a big deal about being an effective employee; it’s just the right way to be. However, in a world teeming with staff who watch the clock, eager to fly out as soon as it signals closing time, the executive who trains himself in effectiveness immediately stands out and attracts high praise.

Luck is overrated. Your outstanding colleague is not merely “lucky” and you’re not “unlucky” either. It is not enough to simply show up. Don’t be the employee who does the barest minimum. Concentrate on your own contribution and performance. The more you do this, and improve your organisation by serving customers better, the more you increase your own profile and advance your own career.

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Joy Ehonwa

Joy Ehonwa is an editor and a writer who is passionate about relationships and personal development. She runs Pinpoint Creatives, a proofreading, editing, transcription and ghostwriting service. Email: pinpointcreatives [at]

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