How To Become An Irreplaceable Employee, Part 1
I was recently speaking with my friend, a fellow CEO, and he asked me if I had a “vomit list.”
I had no idea what he was talking about. I told him, “Of course not. That sounds disgusting!”
He explained: “It’s a good list. One people should want to be on. It’s that short list of employees that if they walked in your office and quit, you’d look for a trash can fast.”
I didn’t realize it then, but even I have my own “vomit” list of irreplaceable employees. Every leader should as well. I’ve also been reflecting on the things people do to get themselves on the list. What are the “do’s” and “don’ts” for being an irreplaceable employee?
If you find any of these apply to you, it may be that 2018 is your year to buck the old habits that are keeping you from becoming an irreplaceable employee.
1. Don’t rely on duct tape. In several posts, I’ve said employees should be handy with duct tape (the ability to fix problems with creative and strategic thinking). However, if it gets to the point where you’re building systems that only you know how to run, it’s time to ditch the duct tape.
Be someone who fixes problems with creative and strategic thinking, and then teach others to do the same in a scalable, sustainable way. If you’re the type of employee that shows an ability to innovate and build to the point of working yourself out of a job, you will do exactly that: work yourself out of a job into something better.
2. Don’t create silos.
Building great teams makes you irreplaceable, but building silos that act as independent operators within the company does not. While it’s natural to build camaraderie and teamwork with the coworkers in your corner of the office, make sure your corner doesn’t turn into a fiefdom. If you silo yourself off at the expense of your boss or other coworkers, things have gone too far.
As you self-reflect on your team dynamics, ask yourself: “Do I interact with co-workers in a way that makes the office better? Or does it just make things better for me and my people?” The difference between the two means more to the office than you may realize, in morale and efficiency. Trust me, your boss will notice either way.
3. Don’t add to entropy.
In the book of Genesis, the writer describes the beginning of the universe as God’s attempt to bring order out of chaos. God’s response to the process? “It is good.” Order is necessary for a company’s health, and it takes a conscious effort.
However, one of the fundamental laws of nature is that complexity grows daily, otherwise known as entropy. Order takes work in every aspect of life, but especially at work. Entropy is built into the workplace as much as it’s built into the universe: systems trend towards disorder unless you put them in order. Ask yourself if you’re the type of employee who creates order or succumbs to the natural descent into disorder. Are you looking for ways to simplify systems in the workplace? If not, you’re making things more complex.
4. Don’t focus on the money.
Debt kills joy in the workplace. Indebted employees become distracted, anxious, and never able to make enough to make things work. If you want to be irreplaceable, start by straightening out your personal finances.
If you’re worried about your job because you’re worried about money, it will show. The logical question your boss might ask is: “Are they working here for the paycheck, or do they actually want to be here?” If you’ve taken care of yourself financially, your boss will know that the work is what brings you in.
By managing your personal finances, you will also put all your energy into producing good work as opposed to worrying that your work is adequate enough to keep your job. Financial turmoil will inevitably put you in the corner of “just trying to get by,” which is never a good look to those around you.
If you stay away from these poor habits, you’ll be well on your way to making someone’s “vomit list” (and that’s a good thing).