Four Attributes that Drive Successful Companies & Individuals

Catherine Mulder on

Man looking at a pie chart

Success is a major goal that each individual and organization strives to achieve. It has many different layers, and interpretations - from an individual level to company wide. Based on studies from the Empirical Software Engineer team, as well as the methodology behind Deep Work, there have been four identifiable attributes that embrace the well-rounded skill sets of effective workers.

Working in a Meticulous Manner

The number one attribute of an effective individual is their ability to pay attention to detail. For engineers, this means possessing an ability to write and interpret code accurately. When an individual is able to prove they are capable of properly coding, it builds respect within the credibility of their work (Luo). For someone in an administrative role, attention to detail could be properly deciphering and executing billing paperwork. The ability to manage a variety of complex ideas and tasks is essential to the success of an individual and a company. Especially in coding, there are demanding issues and challenges that require strategic attention, and having a strong understanding of how to navigate these tasks is very important. Not only does this make the immediate process easier, but creates efficiencies in the future by pro-actively avoiding errors and mistakes.

Molding the Mindset

Another important attribute is the drive to continuously improve. With the improvements of technology, industries are rapidly growing, updating and changing. How the individual responds to the changes can be extremely telling of their effectiveness in their role. With the improvements, comes the introduction to new methodologies and information. An individual needs to be whole-heartedly committed to learning new material, and understanding that the traditional approach may no longer be relevant or the best strategy. Some tasks will require unfamiliar solutions, and it is the responsibility of the individual to familiarize themself to successfully complete the challenge. The open-minded mindset is formed to evolve their thinking, to not be rooted in the past - but more open to growing into the future of their field.

Honesty is the Best Policy

An additional trait that drives success is honesty. Honesty applies much deeper than just the workplace, but in the character of the individual. Honesty is the foundation of trust, and trust helps a company flourish. People need to be able to trust in the feedback and suggestions of others, and tend to stray away from those who are not credible or refuse to acknowledge their own faults. This means people are more interested in turning to someone who can admit when they have made mistakes, in comparison to someone who masks their errors. In the study by the Empirical Software Engineer team, their results concluded that honesty was the third most prioritized trait among engineers, concluding that “a great developer simultaneously knows a lot and questions everything he knows…”(Luo). They hold themselves accountable, and openly share solutions to their success with others to prevent making the same mistake in the future. As well as being self-aware enough to know that they do not have all of the answers, and require a trustworthy, credible team for support and suggestions. This requires a balance of confidence, trust, and integrity, which makes an environment more effective when overcoming trials.

Dive into Deep Work

Lastly, there is another process that when applied can take these three characteristics and elevate their value to new levels. Possessing these traits does not guarantee the strategy in which an individual approaches work - is effective. This is where the fourth characteristic - the ability to Deep Work - is most influential. Deep Work, aka working intently in a distraction-free environment, provides a structured methodology to ensure skills are being maximized to their fullest potential. Developed by Cal Newport, this allows the brain to go into periods of uninterrupted focus, which improves productivity and minimizes burnout. Living in times of social media and constant contact with coworkers, family and friends - productive focus faces great challenges. Deep Work requires honest evaluations within oneself, as well as maintaining close attention to detail. However, arguably the most important attribute it aligns with is the open-mindedness and drive to learn. As Cal Newport states in his book: “Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Crowded World” - “to remain valuable in our economy, you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things.” (Newport) This ideology supports the significance of balancing complexities, as well as owning an adaptable mindset to be open to learning these new methodologies. To demonstrate the three characteristics is impactful, but when combined with the ability to Deep Work, the productivity and possibilities are endless.

In reality, most individuals don’t possess all of these traits, or are stronger in some areas than others. This doesn’t mean that they won’t be an effective engineer or successful in their career. Success is a different and unique experience for each person and company. However, developing these traits, skill sets, and work strategies can call for great advancement and top-tier results. The perfect employee does not exist and perfectionism is not the goal. The goal is to create a team of well-rounded individuals: mentally, emotionally and intellectually that bring passion to their production.

Luo Li, Paul, et al. What Distinguishes Great Software Engineers?, 3 Dec. 2019.

Newport, Cal. DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. GRAND CENTRAL PUB, 2018.

Check out our blog post, Deep Work: Minutes of Focus for a Lifetime of Results, to learn more about this process.