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How to be Irreplaceable

Angie Morgan, May 15, 2017


How to Be Irreplaceable

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. Bruce Lee

“This guy is irreplaceable,” my client, an HR Leader, shared with me prior to a conversation I was going to have with one of the organization’s IT executives.

I love it when people are described as “irreplaceable.” It reminds me of a quote my mentor once shared, “the graveyard is full of irreplaceable people.” So, naturally, I’m a little skeptical to hear business leaders put their employees on unreasonably high pedestals, but when I met this guy I understood what she met. The organization would be hard pressed to find someone to fill his shoes.

Within the first five minutes, it was clear he indexed high on emotional intelligence, just by the way he engaged in conversation. He shared his background, which was pretty diverse and highlighted that he never shied away from experiences. When he described the projects he was working on, I was impressed by the innovation. He then started talking about the organizations he was affiliated with, as well as the conferences he planned on attending. This gentleman clearly had put a lot of thought into his career development.

After our meeting, I circled back with the HR Leader and agreed with her assessment – he was a very valuable employee. She then proceeded to tell me all the steps she and her team were taking to retain him.

When our conversation was over, I thought about how many professionals I knew who would be thrilled if their company put this level of attention into retaining them. I then thought about the behaviors any professional, at any employment level, could demonstrate to be seen as highly valuable to their employer. Here are 5 behaviors to make yourself “irreplaceable” in your organization:

1. Have a Positive Attitude. There are plenty of talented, intelligent professionals who are held back by their inability either to work well with others or set an inspiring example through their outlook and attitude. A fool-proof way to ensure a spot on any team is to be positive, while ensuring language and actions are aligned with the organization’s culture.

2. Understand How Your Organization Makes Money. To be irreplaceable, you have to understand how your business makes money and figure out how your role connects to results. Over time, learn how you can take initiative to either grow revenue or save on costs. If you can impact your businesses’ bottom line, you’re highly valuable.

3. Be Open to Experience. Curiosity and an open mind will get you pretty far in life – throughout your career, you collect experiences, which can be invaluable to both you and your employer. Going back to the IT Executive, he didn’t climb a career ladder per se – he was on the career jungle gym, which meant that he had a breadth of experiences he could pull from to inform his perspective. You can’t fake experience; you have to be open to it and grow from it. Your experience is your job security, so be intentional about developing it.

4. Lead Your Career. While developing your career, grow your network and expand your knowledge. You’ll discover that relationships become increasingly more important as your career matures, so make a point to build rapport with those inside and outside of your industry. Likewise, ensure that along the way you’re developing skills and knowledge so you’re able to be in a position to innovate.

5. Initiate and Execute. You will always be valuable if you’re able to follow through on the ideas you propose. Action is key. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve facilitated too many meetings with HR representatives who differentiate high potentials simply by their ability to get “stuff” done.

While this list is not exhaustive, it’ll get you on the right path. It’s important to note, too, that these are behaviors – not talents that you either are or aren’t born with. If you’re seeking to either be that sought-after talent, or a job-secure employee, consider how you can build these behaviors into your work routine.

Looking for more ideas on how to be a SPARK in your organization? Check out the SPARK End of Chapter Resources here!

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