Life Lesson #4 – Attributes of Great Employees

KTM Solutions celebrated 15 years in business on April 21, 2020. Although COVID-19 impacted our celebration plans, this milestone gave me pause to reflect on 15 years in business and the life lessons learned. I would like to continue to share those with you as maybe they will help other business leaders.

Have you ever noticed how some people just have a passion for something and they exude energy? I had a friend in Seattle who loved to fish. If he could, he would have gone fishing every day. He loved the thought process and the challenge of finding the perfect way to catch fish. He was very good at it and would almost glow when speaking about fishing.

When I started my engineering career, I had dreams of how my career would turn out and the work I would do. There have been times in my career that were more enjoyable than others. I remember one particular time when I told my wife, “I can’t believe I get paid to do what I am doing; this is so much fun!” In fact, I enjoyed that work so much I had a hard time disengaging at the end of the day. I believe this passion was noticed by others and was a large contributor to my later successes. But passion alone isn’t what makes a great hire.

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Every employer will tell you they want the best people. I too want the best people. I will dare to say you do too. What does it mean to be “one of the best?” I have been fortunate to receive reports from many of our customers about the performance of our staff. I believe our workforce is second to none and that KTM Solutions’ reputation is directly reflective of our great employees. Friends, colleagues, and customers have asked what I look for when hiring for my business. I found there are four common ingredients in all great employees:

Humility and a teachable spirit – A person who is willing to listen and learn, who understands that everyone has weaknesses and can improve.  Such a person is not defensive when receiving feedback. They learn from their mistakes, don’t dwell in the past, and move forward. They willingly admit that they need help when they don’t know the answers, yet they do what they can to find a solution. Great employees use their minds and exercise lifelong learning.

Integrity – These are people who say what they mean and mean what they say. They make promises and commitments and work diligently to satisfy each. They take ownership for their actions and use both good and bad as building blocks for the next challenge. They own the cause and work diligently to perform and meet expectations.  They honestly assess themselves and situations.

Service to others – These people look for ways to help others. They recognize that life is bigger than themselves. Even if they don’t have the capability to resolve a problem themselves, they seek to connect others with people who can help. They recognize that they are not the center of the universe. They are confident in what they can do and use that to the benefit of others.

Passion – People who enjoy what they do are great employees and like their work. They are proud of what they do. They seem to have a “glow” that is apparent when they talk about their work.

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That’s it! But you might say, “what about job skills?” Of course, when KTM Solutions hires an engineer, we expect a solid understanding of the science of engineering. In fact, we test for this in order to understand the appropriate assignment for each candidate. Over the last three decades in engineering leadership, I have found a person of average technical ability that possess the four attributes listed above will outperform a supercharged “technocrat” who lacks those attributes. Not to mention, the person who possesses those attributes is much more pleasant to work with and usually works hard to exceed expectations.

In reality, these same four attributes are found in great companies (whether a supplier, partner, or customer). Company culture can grow or squash these attributes in an employee. I learned in the early years of KTM Solutions that it’s a misnomer to say companies do business together. Yes, the legal arrangement of the contract is usually between companies, but in order to get to that point, people must connect. It’s the people that do business together. Whether you are in the role of supplier or buyer, the same attributes tend to make the business relationships work well and succeed.

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Humility, integrity, service to others, and passion. Think about it. When these things are missing, you may receive acceptable or even good services and products. But, in my experience, premier service and products are built on the work of great employees supported by a great company culture that values and enhances these attributes.  When hiring or buying services, look for these qualities and you can’t go wrong.

About the Author: Paul V. Kumler, P.E., is president of KTM Solutions, an engineering company that services the aerospace and large-scale manufacturing industries. In addition to aero structures engineering services, KTM Solutions designs and builds tooling supporting a broad clientele and various industries. (

The company is headquartered in Greer, South Carolina, with remote offices in Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Kumler serves in several volunteer roles including the SC Aerospace Advisory Board. Mr. Kumler, a professional engineer, is licensed in Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington. He is married to Ginger A. Kumler. Together, they have two grown children and three grandchildren.

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