The No 1. Trait I want from my staff

Someone asked me today, “Alastair, what’s the number one trait you expect or want from your staff”. Hmm interesting – this made me think very hard. Some of the obvious ones sprang to mind immediately:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Skilled
  • Motivated
  • Hard Working

They all came close.

Do you know what I ended up answering and on reflection still consider up there at the top? (enough to write a post about it! at least!)

Someone who ‘Accepts Responsibility’

What do I mean by this?

This person never blames anyone else, they accept responsibility themselves in a positive way and offer a solution which they learn from and better themselves with. In sales especially this is very important and easy to explain using the following example:

Sales person A returns from a pitch, and say’s the following: “Boss we didn’t get it because the customer doesn’t have the money just now – times have been tight because of the recession and the chips are down – it’s hard out there right now.”

Sales person B returns from the same pitch and say’s, “Boss I didn’t get the pitch for these two reasons – I didn’t qualify the person hard enough, so hadn’t realised they didn’t have the right budget for our product and I didn’t build a good enough relationship with the decision maker. I tell you what though, I’m not going to make the same mistakes again and I’ll nail the next one Boss.”

Who accepted responsibility in that scenario? Who would you rather have working for you? Yes of course, the second guy right?

This doesn’t just apply in sales, it happens in all areas of business and I personally want to surround myself with people who have the ability to accept responsibility. If someone comes to me and says they made a mistake but they’ve learnt or they know how to fix it then that’s a HUGE tick in the box. If they come to me blaming someone else or some external factor then it has the opposite effect.

There is a great article on the Livestrong Blog which goes into far more detail about the topic and is well worth a read if you agree with my points above:

Now Your Thoughts

  • Don’t forget that when you employ people, you are looking for things like this from an early stage – what sort of questioning could you use to coax this kind of personality trait out of someone?
  • What would you say the No1 trait you look for in your staff is?


  1. Nathan Davis on 14th January 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Hi Alastair,
    🙂 like it !!

    I also like a teachable spirit – someone who wants to learn – and who loves helping people and/or design depending on their role – preferably both!!

    I also look for people who are better than me 🙂

    • Banksy on 15th January 2011 at 1:31 pm

      Thanks Nathan

      Totally agree with you on both counts. I think some business owners find having people around that are better than them a threat – Like you, I relish that and see it as an inspiration.

  2. Scott Gould on 14th January 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Hey Al

    I like this a lot.

    From this value of accepting responsibility, a lot of other good qualities flow.

    When someone takes responsibility, they’ll start taking initiative and be proactive. They’ll be honest, theyll be on time, they’ll be focussed, etc.

    Thanks for alerting my attention to ths!

    • Banksy on 15th January 2011 at 1:33 pm

      Thanks Scott – You’ve always struck me as the kind of guy who gets the most from his team. I’m sure that this is just one of the qualities that you instill in your people.

      Pro-activeness and focus is definitely up there too. Having your staff dump problems on you is not healthy – I want people who bring solutions, not problems.

  3. Shaun Durham on 17th January 2011 at 11:19 am

    Hi Alistair

    Interesting thoughts. I once asked the MD of a small business the same question and his answer was: trust.

    ‘Can I trust them with the keys to my safe?’

    A great sentiment. Difficult to ‘test’ during an interview process of course.


    • Banksy on 17th January 2011 at 9:50 pm

      Very good point Shaun – I’ve heard a slight variation on that one: ‘Would you let them pack your parachute if you were jumping out of a plane’ 🙂

      Makes you think doesn’t it 🙂

      Thanks for commenting today, it means a lot that you took the time.

  4. sim stewart on 17th January 2011 at 11:22 am

    Nice post Al, the sales person example is great. Shame is that in all my time selling for the likes of News International and Microsoft I can’t remember running into one professional who reacted like sales person B, probably one of the reasons I felt it was time to move on.

    • Banksy on 17th January 2011 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks for dropping by Sim and taking the time to comment. Do you think you get that trait in corporates more than in SME’s?

  5. Daniel Tenner on 21st January 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Hi there,

    Interesting view. I recall reading an article or book, I think it was from Peter Drucker, and he made the point that the one quality that managers (and, really, any employee) have to bring to the table is integrity.

    The reasoning was that this is the one quality that cannot be trained up. You either have integrity or you don’t, and if you don’t, no management course will ever teach you that, and it’s very unlikely to change by itself over time.

    • Banksy on 21st January 2011 at 7:33 pm

      Thanks Daniel – great to have you comment here for the first time.

      I think you’re right integrity is so important and I wouldn’t want anyone on my team without it.

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