Gini Dietrich

Good to Great: How You Can Become a Level 5 Employee

By: Gini Dietrich | November 8, 2010 | 
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I first blogged about this for Becky Johns on her “Required Reading” from PRWeek blog. So if you read it over there, move along. There is nothing new to see. Unless you feel like visiting the comments, which are always interesting and don’t always have anything to do with the post. I can’t help it. My friends are crazy. So enjoy reading, join the conversation, or just hit “mark all as read.”

A few months ago, Courtney Dial riffed on a post I had written about my own growth as a business leader by writing “Level 5 Leaders Need Level 5 Employees.” She challenged readers to think about how you can become a level 5 employee, even if you’re not at the top of your game yet.  And so began a conversation between Becky Johns and me about what it takes to be a level 5 employee and how we interview for that kind of person.

We don’t interview people – we interview leaders. And leaders come at every level – not just at the top (and, sometimes, the people put in leadership positions aren’t leaders). Sure, every business needs followers, but we look for people who have leadership skills in various areas; areas that complement where we have weaknesses on the team. Because not everyone is a leader in everything.

Unfortunately, we can’t interview people in social situations to see whether or not they’re wallflowers or light up a room when they walk in. What we can do, though, is interview for skills and talent that exceed the 9 to 5 work day.

So, what do we look for?

We want to know:

  • If you push yourself to learn more.
  • If you do, how so.
  • What you read and what you subscribe to daily.
  • Which conferences you attend and what you’ve learned.
  • Examples of times you’ve been innovative and creative.
  • Examples of when your creative ideas have been squashed and how you’ve handled it.
  • Whether or not you are self-motivated, driven, and a self-starter (we’re not micromanagers).
  • Whether or not you “steal” your colleagues’ ideas as your own.
  • How you inspire the people above, at your level, and below you.
  • What you do very first thing when you go to a networking event.
  • Whether or not you’re involved in our industry organizations.
  • Examples of taking one for the team or sticking up for a colleague.
  • How you handle conflict.
  • Examples of when you’ve asked for additional responsibility.

This may seem like a crazy long list, but I can tell you what this kind of stuff tells us:

  1. If you read and subscribe to blog posts, articles, videos, and podcasts, we know you’re continually learning.
  2. If you attend conferences, networking events, and are involved in the industry organizations, we know you will always be asking for more responsibility.
  3. If you participate online through your own blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes, and/or LinkedIn, we know you aren’t a believer in the 9 to 5 day.
  4. If you can give examples of how you handle conflict and taking one for the team, we know what kind of communication skills you have.

Granted, Arment Dietrich is a digital marketing firm so we look for people who can already use web and mobile technologies. But every business looks for people who can add value, both financially and emotionally. And people who act like they own a piece of the company, have accountability, are exceptional team players, and never talk down to others are the ones all of us are excited to work with every day. You can’t always choose your co-workers, but you can choose the way you behave. Behave like a Level 5 employee.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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