8 qualities of remarkable employees

Whether you are a manager, an HRD or simply an employee wanting to stand out, this article contains some qualities to look out for.

Skill: Reading     Theme: Human Resources     Level: Advanced (B2+)

Focus before reading

In your opinion, what are the main qualities that would enable an employee to stand out from the crowd? (to distinguish themselves).  Make a list.


Here are the paragraph headings from the article.  Read each one, and make short notes to predict content of each paragraph.  Highlight any paragraph headings you don’t understand and move onto the next one.

  1. They ignore job descriptions
  2. They’re eccentric
  3. But they know when to dial it back*
  4. They publicly praise
  5. And they privately complain
  6. They speak when others won’t
  7. They like to prove others wrong
  8. They’re always fiddling**

Are any of these qualities similar to the ones you listed?  Have you thought of any others you could add to the list?


Now read the article: 8 qualities of remarkable employees

If you print the article, you can use the following annotation method for words you don’t know:

  1. If you don’t know the word, but don’t think you need it to understand the article, cross it out.
  2. If you don’t know the word, but think you can guess the meaning from the context, underline it.
  3. If you don’t know the word, and can’t guess the meaning from the context, highlight it, then look up the meaning.


  • Think about your own workplace.  Do you have any colleagues that demonstrate any of these qualities?
  • Which of these qualities do you have?  Which ones would you like to develop?

*dial something back is an invented expression which we deduce from the context has a similar meaning to tone something down.

**fiddle often has a negative connotation, but that is not intended here.  It means to take something apart in order to find out how it works and then improve it.

Photo Credit: hippydream [is busy] cc

Improve pronunciation through shadow reading

pronunciationIn the world of online language learning, have you come across the field of « accent reduction » and « accent reduction trainers »?  When I see this I’m concerned about false advertising on the one  hand and false hopes on the other.  The notion of « accent » is extremely subjective.  Most of the English learners I spend time with have what many might consider a « French » accent, but although there are some common features in the sounds of their speech, there are as many « French » accents as there are students.  Which « French » accent are we referring to?  Furthermore, is it necessarily a « bad » thing to have French-sounding English (or German, Chinese, Hispanic…)?  A French accent may grate on the ears of another French English-speaker, but to native English speakers it can sound exotic and sophisticated.

Rather than talking about « accent » it is more helpful to distinguish between clear and unclear pronunciation.   Often it is not « accent reduction » that is required, but rather training in how to produce sounds that do not occur in the learner’s L1 (native language) and how to speak with English-sounding intonation.  The latter is certainly more difficult to achieve.

Taking the example of French learners (the example I know best), it is not usually mistakes in pronunciation that hinders communication, but rather unusual intonation.  French and English intonation are very different, and I find this one of the hardest areas in which to help learners.  French speech is timed by its syllables – every syllable has the same value (think machine gun).  English, rather, is timed by stress: the rhythm of words is determined by the stressed syllable, and the rhythm of a sentence by the words that are emphasised (think Morse code).  Native English speakers are good at adapting to non-standard pronunciation because of the huge variety in world English.  But we are not so good at adapting to differences in intonation.  Try saying an English sentence giving every syllable the same value and not stressing any particular words.  The result is likely to be unintelligible.

This is where shadow-reading comes in as a useful technique for intonation and pronunciation training.  Not every learner catches on to the value of this immediately as it seems counter-intuitive, but once you « get » it, it’s almost guaranteed to improve your speaking if it is done regularly.

Prerequisite: learners need to be good at sourcing audio material on the Internet on subjects that interest them, downloading podcasts, and need to have regular listening integrated into their language-learning programme.  This is a must for students anyway, and the possibilities are endless.  To get you started:

Listening and Reading Comprehension with Online Books

A fun way to Develop Listening Comprehension


ESL Cyber Listening Lab

Talk About English (BBC Learning English)


Audio material with transcripts works best, and monologues (talks, reports etc.) work better than dialogues (conversations, interviews etc.).  The speech should be somewhat slower than normal conversational speed, but not unnaturally slow.

The lower the level, the more assistance the learner will need to source appropriate materials.  It is not essential that the learner master all the vocabulary in the material, however, the more they understand, the more motivating the activity.

There are two ways of approaching shadow-reading.

With script.

1. Listen to the material once or twice to understand the gist of the article.

2. Listen again and this time try to highlight or underline the stressed words in each sentence, and any pronunciation that is unexpected.

3. Play again and this time read along with the speaker, trying as much as possible to mimic their intonation.

4. Finally, practice reading the text aloud without the audio.  Ask a trainer for comments if you have one available.

5. (Optional)  Record your reading of the text using Audacity.  As a follow up activity you can then listen to your own voice, and then the original audio, and note any differences you hear.

Without script (for more advanced learners).

1. Listen to the material once or twice to understand the gist of the article.

2. Replay the audio and this time, speaking aloud, try to « shadow » the speech by repeating what is said immediately after you hear it, trying to mimic the speaker’s intonation.

3.  Repeat the activity until you can shadow the whole article without missing words (you may need to check the script for any unknown words).

4. (Optional).  You can easily turn this into a writing or speaking activity.  After you have listened a few times, rewrite the speech in your own words according to what you remember, OR practice giving the speech in your own words without any support from the text.  This can be recorded using Audacity, and played back to your teacher/trainer or a native speaker for comments.

These activities don’t have to be done with a trainer (doing myself out of a job here!)  However, one disadvantage of doing it alone is that we don’t always notice our own pronunciation or intonation errors, especially if they are bad habits that we have developed over time.  Live online language training gives you this opportunity, in your own time, and without having to leave your home.  Contact us for more details.

photo credit: waving at you via photopin cc