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We all want to get in good with the powers that be -- especially our bosses. But many times, we take the route of sucking up or throwing team members under the bus to make ourselves look like the star.
Believe it or not, you don't have to be so devious to get your boss to notice you. For some employers, it just comes down to working "smart."
"Sometimes working hard doesn't cut it. I find that I'm more impressed with staff members who work smart. A hard worker stays up all night to complete a task. A smart worker either delegates the assignment or finds a way to do it in half the time," says Cynthia Onyejiji, director of social media for Arjuni International, Ltd. "At the end of the day, an executive's main concern is saving time and money by increasing efficiency. No matter how hard you work, if there's someone doing exactly what you do except smarter and faster, they'll grab the limelight every time."
We asked employers what it was about their best employees that impressed them. Here's what they had to say:
1. "Our best team members are always striving for improvement and take personal pride in their work. They go the extra mile, volunteering to help their teammates, pick up extra responsibilities and find ways to leverage our systems to become more efficient." -- Jodie Shaw, CEO, U.S. and Canada, ActionCOACH, a business coaching firm
2. "Attitude is the No. 1 trait that impresses me as a manager. My best employees are eager to be successful, professional and consistent. They are also important team players that have ideas and a desire to contribute to the success of the business. They can work independently and serve as a resource to others." -- Jeanine Hamilton, founder and president of Hire Partnership, a staffing and workforce solutions firm
3. "I love it when my assistant takes initiative and anticipates my needs or the needs of the office. We recently got a new phone system that we all needed to be trained on. She covered the reception area while all the receptionists went to training. I didn't even have to ask her. She'll put together folders for me when I have big meetings, schedule my appointments or convey messages to my fellow managers when she knows I'm overwhelmed. She runs interference with clients and tips me off about news on the grapevine. When my boss wanted to lay her off, I made the case for keeping her, and her job was saved." -- Maureen Nelson, manager, Oakland One Stop Career Center, a non-profit career center
4. "People who are always prepared and ready, whether it is for a planned meeting or a question that pops up about a pending project. If I am looking for you to contribute, it is an opportunity to win me over by showing that you understand all of the relevant information and have already spent some time thinking about how to best advance the goals of the team and organization." --Tony O. Pham, vice president of marketing, Life360, an online service for protecting safety and security
5. "My best employee really impresses me with three facets: attitude, effort and ability. He may not be the most able in the team, but multiply the amount of effort and the positive attitude he puts in combined with solid ability, and it reveals to me that he will be a future 'star' in the company." --Tyron Giuliani, partner, Optia Partners, a recruiting firm
6. "I am most impressed when employees anticipate the need for something to be done. If I ask someone to do something and they say, 'I already took care of that,' I know I can count on that person." --Yassine Azizi, production manager, MANCOMM, a national safety and compliance publisher
7. "So many people talk about how great they are and why they should be given an opportunity. I don't want to hear all the things you can do, I want you to show me! My staff has got to be some of the best players I've ever had the privilege of working with and they bring it every hour of every day! It's imperative that you can not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. -- Will 'Brimstone' Kucmierowski, CEO, Hound Comics, a publishing company
8. "The best way to impress me is to come to me once all their work has been completed and ask me, 'Ken, what else can I do?' There is always something that can be done, so I love when employees come to me asking if they can help out anywhere else in the company. -- Ken Wisnefski, founder and CEO, WebiMax, an online marketing company
9. "The most valuable attribute of an employee is to become an astute problem solver. We provide the employee with a brief outline of the issue, problem or challenge, tell them how we've unsuccessfully already tried to address the issue, and offer them some direction in how we think the issue might be addressed. Then it is up to the employee to become an expert on the issue and investigate the best solution. This requires quite a bit of resourcefulness and patience from an employee, but any employee who can solve problems on their own is a truly valuable asset and will always impress the boss." -- Jeff Kear, partner, director of brand strategy and messaging, Kear Stevens, a branding agency
10. "That they 'fit in' with the company culture and make everyone comfortable. If someone asks too many high-level questions or assumes a dominant role right away, it can come off as threatening. It's important to moderate your ambition when working for someone else. If you want to advance, do it over time by earning respect and trust." --Carl King, author of "So, You're A Creative Genius... Now What?"
11. "My best employees continually impress me with their positive can-do attitudes. Business can be complicated and stressful, but my best employees take it in stride, approach problems with the perspective of 'let's find the solution' and use the resources around them to get things done well.
I'm also impressed with employees who use humor and fun to make the work day enjoyable for themselves and their team members. We spend a lot of time together and a good laugh smoothes over the rough patches and makes the day interesting." -- Heidi Reimer-Epp, president and co-founder of Botanical PaperWorks, an eco-friendly stationary manufacturer
12. "The thing I most admire about our CEO is that he is always asking what he can do to manage the team more effectively, act more kindly and learn more about our business. He never pretends to know more than he does. He is humble, knows he's not perfect, and frequently asks what he can do to improve his leadership style. A humble attitude instills confidence in a leader and makes sure he never rests on his laurels." -- Sander Daniels, co-founder of Thumbtack.com, a search directory
13. "What matters to me the most is they have to be punctual on everything they do for my company. Not just getting to work on time but also finishing projects and tasks on or before time." -- Sonny Ahuja, social media marketing consultant
Rachel Farrell researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder. Follow @Careerbuilder on Twitter.
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