How to Be Indispensable as an Employee or a Leader [vlog]

By making yourself indispensable (which means "absolutely necessary" according to the dictionary), you create a much higher chance for promotion, selection for prime assignments, and in general make yourself more employable. In this video blog (vlog), I share four highly actionable ideas for ways you could make yourself more indispensable at work.

What are your biggest takeaways?

What have you tried already and what was your experience?

What do you plan to try?

Tell me about it in the comments below!!


Halelly: I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist with TalentGrow, and today I wanted to talk with you about how to be indispensable. Whether you are an employee, a leader or even an external consultant like me – an attendant or entrepreneur – you need to make sure that your employer, your leadership, your clients see you as completely indispensable. Now, I looked up the word indispensable in the dictionary and it said that it meant absolutely necessary. So it doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed a job or that nothing will ever happen, but it does mean that you are first in line for a promotion, you are last in mind for a downsizing. You are the person that leadership thinks about when they think about someone they really, really want on the team. So, a lot of us covet this kind of rank, but we don’t know how to get there. So I have four suggestions for you today for how to make yourself more indispensable.

So, let’s first think about the value proposition here. Whether you are employed or an independent, you are getting paid for some kind of a value that you produce. Now, I hope that you’re not just getting paid for hours that you’ve spent with your butt in some chair. That doesn’t really add a lot of value. You are getting paid because your brain – and maybe your hands – create something that the organization finds of value that helps the organization succeed, that helps customers be happy, that helps create bottom line results. And in exchange for your producing those tangible or intangible services or products, ideally you receive money that is of equal value to the value that you produce. So if you want to make yourself indispensable, what you need to do is make sure that you are upping the value that you are seen as providing, because that makes you absolutely necessary. The opposite is also true – if you only do exactly what’s required, or the minimum necessary, you actually call into question the value that you produce for an organization. So to make yourself indispensable, absolutely necessary, I have four suggestions for things you can actually do that will help you be seen and be indispensable to your leaders.

The first one is to make yourself extra useful. So as I alluded earlier, there is an expectation that you produce a certain level of results. But what you can do is increase one side of the equation. That is, do more that you’re asked to do. Maybe when you’re finished with your task, you can help some of your colleagues. Maybe you can offer some help or leadership. Maybe you can volunteer for other projects or extra work. When you take on extra responsibility, you make yourself extremely useful, and that makes you more indispensable to your organization. So the first tip is make yourself extra useful.

The second tip, actually I was inspired by a conversation I had just a couple of days ago with a new friend and a potential client who is a CEO of a chain of Montessori schools. He and I were talking about his career path, and he didn’t start as CEO of that organization. He actually started as a teacher. What he did is he made himself indispensable because he criticized by creating. A lot of people see things that are wrong in the organization. They see mistakes, they see challenges. But the most common way to react is one of three ways. One is to complain to leadership, but just to complain. A second way is not to complain to leadership, but to complain to all your colleagues. So you just go around, complaining to the people that you work with, but you don’t say anything to leadership. And the third very common way that people deal with mistakes and problems that they see is they say nothing. They just sort of put their head down, they say, “You know, I see this mistake, but I’ve been asked to do it this way, so I’ll just do it this way. This is what they wanted me to do, so I’ll do it. It’s wrong, or I think there is a better way, but that’s not my job so I’ll just keep going.” This doesn’t add value to the organization at all.

So this fourth way of adding value and making yourself indispensable is when you see a problem, or when you have a challenge that you’re faced with, or you see a mistake that you think your leadership is making, instead of just complaining or keeping quiet about it, you can criticize by creating. So my colleague that I spoke with, what he described was he saw some challenges, he saw some concerns or he had some idea. And instead of just saying, “Hey, this is not the best way to do it, or I don’t think you’re doing this right,” he came up with ideas for solutions and he brought forth recommendations. So, he actually thought a few steps down the line too. Because he knew when he came to the founder and said, “Hey, I think there’s a better way to do this, and here is my idea of how to do that,” the founder immediately thought, “Well, I think if we do it this way, then people might complain about that, or it might create this other ripple effect,” and Ray thought about that too and he said, “Yeah, I know. I already drafted the email response that you can send to people if they react in that way.” So he thought a few steps down the road. He made himself indispensable. Now, in acting this way in his job as a teacher, he eventually became so indispensable that he was promoted and rose up to be the CEO of the organization. It didn’t happen overnight, but it was a traction of those kinds of ownership behaviors, and extra indispensable approach that made him be the kind of person that his leader thought of when he needed to bring someone to run the whole organization. So make yourself extra useful and criticize by creating.

The third way you can make yourself more indispensable is for looking for ways to ease management’s burden. My friend Dan Stroll suggested this to me a while back and I totally agree with him. When you see many employees just doing what they’re asked to do, you can make yourself really differentiated by thinking about how to make your manager’s job easier, or how can you make your manager look good? This person is struggling, actually, to handle a lot, right? Leadership, management, is not an easy task. They have a lot riding on their shoulders and they usually have a big, huge headache as a result. But you can make yourself indispensable by doing things that you see that you could do to somehow ease their burden or make them look better. So you’re in a sense partnering with your leader, with your manager, and making yourself indispensable.

And the fourth way I suggest you can make yourself more indispensable at work is by increasing the value that you add to your organization by increasing your skill premise. So I care very deeply about employee development and career development, and it is something that I wrote about in my book, Employee Development on a Shoestring, which I hope that you have. If you don’t, I hope that you grab a copy! It’s in the margin of my vlog or right here on my website, and of course on Amazon and everywhere books are sold. But one of the things that I talk about in this book that I think that you can take away and apply to making yourself indispensable is the idea that you are free and I hope that you are responsible to take ownership for your own development. A great book that I read recently is called The Startup of You, and this book recommends that you view yourself as a product and your career as a way to continue enhancing that product and moving it to market. So all of the jobs that you have are along the path where you’re contracting with various employers, or maybe like me you’re contracting with various clients, to add value by bringing your skills and your knowledge. So, if you learn something new, if you can enhance the things that you can do for your leaders, for your organization, for your clients, you are increasing the value of you, of your product. So you don’t have to wait for your organization to send you to training or to give you development opportunities. It’s really great if they do, but it is not their job only to take responsibility for the product of you. It is your job.

So make yourself indispensable by making it your job to increase the value that you provide, and increase your skills and offerings. Look for opportunities to develop yourself. They don’t need to look like training. They don’t need to cost a lot of money, and it is something that is absolutely your number one priority and way more important to you than it can possibly be to any employer. But the results of that work will be seen and will be felt by your employer, and will cause you to become more indispensable than many of the others that aren’t doing it in this way.

So I hope that you will take my advice for how to make yourself more indispensable. I think that it is totally applicable to anyone, no matter where you are, and I hope that this has been helpful to you. But I’d love to hear what you thought. So leave me comments in the comments below, on my vlog, that tell me in what way have you tried this and seen that it works, or what do you plan to do to put this to the test? I’d love to hear from you, and also if you can share this with others that you think might benefit, it will make me really happy. So thank you for taking a listen and taking a look at the TalentGrow vlog, and this vlog episode. I’m Halelly Azulay, I’m your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow. I hope that you have subscribed to my newsletters so we can keep in touch and I can keep adding value in your inbox every other week with great tips, really actionable advice, and very quick links to things that you can use to make yourself even more indispensable. Let’s keep in touch, thanks for tuning in. And until then, make today great!

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