Here’s How You Can Be Indispensable At Work
During the pandemic as workers adjusted to working from home as many people work even harder than the past, the reality is you may feel like you’re working to prove your worth and in turn, remain employed.
That’s why I checked in with Bruce Tulgan, author of the new book, The Art of Being Indispensable At Work, to see how you can become an absolute necessity with your employer—even during uncertain times. For decades, this founder of RainmakerThinking has been studying how to go-to people set themselves apart from their peers.
While this book was written during pre-pandemic times, he says, “If ever there was a time to adopt a true service mindset, this is it. The good news is that the more you serve others—by seeking to add value in every interaction—the more they want to build you up and help you out, too.” Recommended For You
In addition to leaning into the service mindset, above all, connection with people is key. “In the uncertainty of the post pandemic world, people will be our anchors, our relationships to one another a source of strength and security. Be a go-to person and build up your network of go-to people you know you can rely on. Invest in each other with intention.”
By yearning to become indispensable while investing with intention, he points out this often means stretching yourself beyond your means. In turn, priorities “become muddled” and high priority tasks are not accomplished or not performed well.
That said, there are several ways to become a top performer and become that indispensable go-to person.
Play the long game
Think of the long-term goal rather than the short-term fix. To avoid getting burned out and stretching yourselves too thin as Tulgan says to “beat over commitment syndrome,” take a page from the go-to person’s playbook.
You can do this by taking it one moment at a time and “doing the right things for the right reasons, every step of the way.”
Embrace new realities
“Positive attitude, hard work, personal responsibility, and being great at your job are just table stakes,” he notes. “No matter how creative and tenacious you may be, you still have to do things by the book and follow orders.”
Also, start making choices of what you are not going to do in order to get the right things done. “Making no choice is still a choice, and no choice is almost as bad as a bad choice. To make good choices, you must do your due diligence, the sooner the better, every step of the way.”
Be true to your word and deliver work on time. Identify what you’re known for and become an expert in that. Tulgan says, “You can’t be great at everything, so you need to build a repertoire of things you are known for consistently doing very well and very fast….People are your number-one asset, but they are also very high maintenance, so managing relationships is mission critical.”
Know your limits
This means knowing when to say no as well as “not yet” and how to say yes. “Remember, ‘yes’ is where all the action is. Every yes is your opportunity to add value for others and build up your real influence. Don’t waste your yeses. Set up every yes for success with a concrete plan—a clear sequence, timing, and ownership of all the next steps.”
According to Tulgan, this means professionalizing everything you do and specializing in what you do best. Determine what you want to be known for and master best practices. Repeat.
In addition, finish what you start. If you juggle 24/7, it’s inevitable you will drop the ball at some point. Focus on executing one task at a time. “Keep a long to-do list and schedule. But break work into small do-able chunks and find gaps in your schedule for focused executive time. You can only finish one thing at a time,” notes Tulgan.
Stay connected…especially to your boss
Relationships are key and focus building those relationships on the work itself. “Celebrate success with a supersonic thank-you. Channel finger-pointing into continuous improvement through after-action reviews. Plan the next collaboration by looking around the corner together.”
Especially as you work remotely and your boss is suddenly managing remotely, relationships won’t develop as organically as they would have in the office. Tulgan says you can keep each other informed about when you’ll both be in a central location to schedule one-on-one time, schedule in-person meetings when you can visit your boss or he or she can visit you and tap into video calls when face-to-face meetings are not possible.
Regular, scheduled communication is key, prepare for the calls and send a recap via email.
Above all, Tulgan notes, “Now more than ever, it will take extra savvy and skill to manage yourself, your many work relationships, and all the competing demands on your time and talent.”