3 Powerful Strategies to Become Irreplaceable at Work
Are you irreplaceable at work? Well, the short answer is no, you are not. You are actually very replaceable, but we do want you to set yourself apart to the degree that you stand out as exceptional to those around you, especially decision makers. And, I’ve found that using these three strategies really makes a difference, especially if you want to stand out in your job.
In this video, we talk about three strategies that you can implement right away to position yourself as valuable, memorable, and yes … irreplaceable.
Strategy #1 – Understand your brand in order to get known
If you want to be irreplaceable, you have to be memorable. How are you going to do that? Well, in order to make an impression you first need to understand who you are, and especially, who you want to be as you relate to others. This is first about understanding how you’re showing up at work, and then also understanding how you have an impact on the people around you.
Let’s start with the first point. How are you showing up at work? If you’ve never really thought about the kind of impression you make when you get to work, this is a good opportunity to start defining who you want to be. It’s a great exercise, and it helps inform who you are as a brand. Words like dependable, trustworthy, detail-oriented, or even fun, entertaining, sharp-witted, can help you fit into the kind of person you want others to see you as. And, it’s okay if you want to be the fun person. You may have a naturally outgoing and optimistic outlook when you’re at work. I know someone who always made jokes during meetings, but it wasn’t overbearing and you could tell, it was his way of disarming people, especially if the meeting was tense. It’s all good, as long as you’re able to play toward your strengths.
If, for example, you’re naturally introverted, but you want very badly to be like that outgoing person who tells jokes (because maybe you think that’s what it will take to get promoted), ask yourself how you can do that while staying true to yourself. It’s possible, but don’t try to be like someone else. My point here is not to force it, otherwise you’ll struggle with staying consistently inside a definition of yourself that’s too aspirational. Show up the way you want to, but do it inside your natural personality so it doesn’t come across as forced. Remember, to be memorable, you have to start by being natural, then add layers over those strengths, which becomes your brand.
And once you have that figured out, move into the next point, which is about understanding the impact you have on others. How do other people perceive you? Do you get the sense some people see you as annoying? Do you ask too many questions, or too many redundant questions? Do you go off topic or ramble during meetings? Um, I do. Do you come across as very professional and no-nonsense? Most importantly, how are you contributing to the bigger picture for the business? To get known around decision-makers and stakeholders, you need to make sure you’re making those connections, getting in front of those people (through projects or meetings), and then contributing in a way that leaves an impression (but not an annoying one). Be strategic here. Who do you need to know (around you and above you) in order to be seen as a valuable contributor? Once you know who to get in front of, how are you going to behave so that they remember you? Not in an extreme way, but in an impressive way.
Strategy #2 – Work on your reputation in order to build respect
This is where you get to flex your leadership muscle, so I’m going to start with this reminder. The people around you don’t have to like you, but they should respect who you are and the choices you make. This is the beginning of establishing your credibility and your integrity. What does that mean?
Here’s an example. At some point in your career you will fail. You will go out there and work really hard at trying to accomplish something big and whatever you’re trying to do, it just won’t work. And it’s going to suck. Really suck. When it happens to you, forgive yourself, regroup, and review the lessons learned. Having accountability means you’re not afraid to face the truth the next day. You have the courage to follow through on a difficult conversation and develop a plan to move forward without hurting the people involved.
At the same time, being able to stand up for what you believe in, stand up for the people who work with you, and take credit for something that didn’t work out just as much as something that did work. It all contributes to building your integrity. Focus your time and energy on determining what kind of leader you want to be and keep the following in mind.
Number 1 – Respond to challenges from other people by getting clarity around how you want to be seen. As you flex your leadership muscle, there will be people who push back. The more you can respond rather than react to a challenging situation, the more likely you will build a strong reputation based on clear thinking.
Number 2 – Becoming a more strategic thinker adds to your leadership skills. What’s your strategy for getting ahead? Do you know where you’re going and why you want to go there? Do you know what steps you need to take next, which people you need to know (or impress) and what it will take to get there? Do you have a plan? If not, start mapping it out. The more you see it in front of you, the easier it will be to keep that clarity when things get tough.
Number 3 – Change your mindset to reach your goals. Your best strength comes from being the best you you can be. So who are you? It’s easy to slip into the thought that things are happening to you and that others are out to do you harm. For the most part, however, it has to do with your attitude about what’s happening around you. Changing your mindset is powerful. In a sense, it’s the act of unthinking that makes it significant. Take away the negative, the assumptions, the suspicions and the anger. Replace it with an impartial perspective and look for ways to benefit from the current situation.
Strategy Number 3 – Learn how to deliver results in order to earn trust.
There are three parts to this strategy. Building trust with your peers and colleagues. Building trust with your boss, stakeholders, and leadership team. And, building trust with your subordinates — the people who work for you.
Now, when I’m working with a client, one of the first things we talk about is their relationships with the people around them. And one of the first things we set out to do is figure out how that client can start establishing trust right away. It’s especially important for anyone who is a new manager or director of a department of people that they do not know very well. If you want to be irreplaceable, if you want to be memorable, if you want to be impactful, then you want to establish trust with the most important people in your orbit — your boss, stakeholders, and your team. These people are going to advocate for you in return, so you want to be able to use your personal brand (the kind of leader you are) and your reputation (based on integrity and credibility) to establish a mutual trust.
What’s the best way to do that? Many times, it can come down to asking this question: What can I do to help you succeed? It’s a powerful question and it works on many levels. If a colleague is complaining and you want to move the conversation forward. If your boss is frustrated and having a hard time with a specific problem. If you’re working on a project, and the project lead is unloading on everything that’s going wrong. This question helps you position yourself as a problem solver. It also helps the other person get out of complaining mode, and into solution mode, and it helps your team members realize that as their boss, you’re also there to help them succeed. It’s a really powerful statement that helps remind people of your purpose and how you can be valuable.
Christina Holloway is an executive coach and business coach. She helps executives and entrepreneurs grow their companies faster, create results-driven teams, and increase profitability. She has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Addicted2Success and Fast Company. If you’re interested in working with Christina, take a look at her strategy sessions and contact her to get started.