Getting the best opportunities at work isn’t just about completing your to-do list every week. Managers value your personality and attitude nearly as much, and sometimes, that’s what really counts when it comes time to assign someone to lead a choice project or get a coveted promotion.

But which personal qualities or skills define the very best employees in a manager or leader’s eyes? Twelve startup founders from YEC explain.


1. You Have a Sense of Urgency

When I ask an employee to do something, the default assumption should be that I need it right away. High-performing employees have a sense of urgency to get things done as they arise to avoid getting backed up with tasks. These same employees also know how to prioritize or ask for assistance in determining what should be done first.

Mark Cenicola, BannerView.com


2. You’re Eager to Learn

I value employees who continually show me they have a thirst for knowledge by taking the time to learn new skills that could benefit the company. Having a large capacity to learn shows me that as the company grows, there is a good chance that this employee will grow with the increasing demands of their position and continue to move up the ladder, instead of falling behind.

Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile Swim School


3. You Have Street Smarts With a Dose of Sass

My best team members are smart, passionate, and well-researched in their fields. They also have the confidence to stand up to me and ask questions (politely, of course). It helps us all improve when we collaborate on why we’re taking a specific course of action for a client’s marketing strategy, especially when someone says, “What if we do it this way?” and he or she’s right!

Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now


4. You Show Integrity

Every workplace is inundated with devices, making it easy for employees to get distracted. More than anything, we value integrity—people who are honest about their time at the office, work hard, and are committed to the company. Bright employees who figure out shortcuts can be a liability. Integrity is the most valuable quality.

Marcela DeVivo, National Debt Relief


5. You Pay Attention to Detail

Sloppiness can be a massive crutch, even if you’re the most motivated and intelligent person for the job. I love seeing someone complete a task on time that is spell-checked, organized, thorough, and on point.

Josh Sprague, Orange Mud


6. You Show Loyalty

Loyalty is one of the most important traits I look for. No business relationship will ever work out well without trust. If you have people around you who truly believe in your vision and make it their own, they’re worth their weight in gold. Make sure they eat before you do. Because if they don’t, you’ll starve anyway.

Kenneth Cucchia, Deals4Meals.com


7. You Have Confidence

If an employee is able to stand by his or her opinions and suggestions and defend them thoughtfully and respectfully, it shows me that he or she’s capable of being a true leader. Essentially, I value confidence. People who are truly confident aren’t making arbitrary decisions. They’re not pushovers, and most importantly, they’re able to defend their perspective while remaining receptive to critiques.

Mac Morgan, Tonic Design Co.


8. You’re Empathetic

You can always find people with skills, but you can’t always find empathy paired with talent. There have been studies that indicate that the most effective teams aren’t the most intelligent, they don’t have the best degrees, they aren’t the most charismatic—they’re the ones with the most empathy. That’s why we put a premium on empathy and have made it a core value.

Joseph Walla, HelloSign


9. You’re Resourceful

It's a rare quality to find. Folks who can work through obstacles creatively are my favorite. To know that a project may come with unique challenges can be stressful for a manager. I look to assign someone who is capable of digging his or her heels in and independently creating solutions.

Tarek Pertew, Uncubed


10. You Have Lots of Energy

My high-energy employees are always the most successful. I look for my employees to be energized and positive about what we’re doing in the marketplace. This tells me they’re passionate about their job, which will get them far.

Jayna Cooke, EVENTup


11. You’re Reliable

When an important task needs to be delegated, you need to know that the selected employee is going to deliver on both an end result as well as reliable progress feedback. A truly responsible employee will also follow through on any mistakes made in the task completion, take ownership, and ensure that he or she can still be relied on in the future.

Mark Edmondson, Guestfolio


12. You Have a Growth Mindset

Value alignment is an absolute prerequisite, but beyond that, we look for a growth mindset. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Raw talent, education, professional pedigree, and personality are worthless without a drive, curiosity, and passion to better oneself.

Christopher Kelly, Convene


Photo of light bulb courtesy of Shutterstock.