How to Make Yourself Indispensable to Your Team
How to Make Yourself Indispensable to Your Team
When I got my first job right out of college I thought to myself, “Great, now I have one less thing to worry about, let’s get to work!”. Getting the job was the easy part, but I quickly realized that no one’s position is guaranteed or secure per se, in terms of being entitled to it; you have to make a case for why you belong there in that role, at that job, and the case isn't a one-time presentation, it's a daily showcase of your impact, your character and your skill set.
Staying at a job, growing within the position, and making a lasting impression is truly the challenge one must consider within any role they take on, regardless of the company, industry or longevity of the position. But as I soon discovered, there were certain individuals at my company who seemed to be fairly critical pieces of the overall employment puzzle, as was evidenced by the way they presented themselves and (more importantly) the way other stakeholders communicated with, related to, and valued their contributions.
Make Yourself a Necessary Part of Your Team
So, now you're ready to learn what makes you indispensable to your team. There are many ways you can become incredibly valuable to your boss and co-workers, but maybe not in the ways you think.
1 | Sharpen Your Skillset | In this day and age of multi-tasking and competing priorities, we focus on trying to be good at a lot of things, but we have a hard time being truly great at one thing. Deliberate practice at its core is practicing your skills with 100% of your focus, concentration, and effort.
This isn’t something you have to practice 24 hours a day, but you should spend about 30-60 minutes of your workday doing it. By doing this, you become the subject matter expert on your job duty or skill and it’ll make it very hard for people to do what you do at your proficiency.
We only get good at something through repetition and deliberate practice; do you think when Lebron scores during the opening game that was the first time he touched the ball that day? Deliberate practice keeps us from getting rusty; keep your skills sharp and don’t lose your competitive edge! And the thing about practicing regularly is, it doesn't matter who you are or what you do.
A long time ago, I knew a bartender who spent 20 minutes before each shift flipping plastic bottles over and over again in aerial acrobatics because he wanted to impress the guests and give them a great mixology experience (and the tips didn't hurt either)! There’s nothing wrong with multi-tasking or taking on challenges outside the box, just keep that practice in the back of your mind.
2 | Find Regular Feedback | Just because you do something well, doesn’t mean you can’t improve it. Asking for feedback from your boss or your co-workers isn’t a lack of confidence or a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of willingness to improve and better yourself, especially since most fields are constantly evolving these days, and fragmenting into specialties that many people must hone and re-hone their areas of expertise around.
A boss would rather someone ask what they can do better, rather than someone doing perfectly fine and not raising the bar in any way. Confrontation can be awkward for a lot of people, so your co-worker may be holding their tongue unless you ask them directly, but you'd be surprised what your cube-mate might tell you if you ask them how you can aid them in some critical role or process, by doing it better (or maybe just differently).
One time at an agency that had many Fortune 500 clients, a marketing specialist simply sent a two-line email to a client asking if there was anything she could do to format her data input spreadsheets better, or in a way that the client could spend less time filling out. The client was so thrilled by this simple request (and her subsequent edit of the spreadsheet) that they re-signed with the agency on a multi-year agreement, making her the new MVP of the company and (eventually) contributing to a promotion and a salary increase.
The email to 30 seconds to write and the edits took maybe 30 minutes, but by showing concern and care for her performance, she opened up a line of dialogue with other critical stakeholders and provided great transparency and service in the work she was accomplishing, with a payoff that well worth the meager investment of time and effort.
Don't get me wrong, you will never be a true master of your job because your job (just like everyone's) is always changing. But by seeking to continually improve your skills, you show a work ethic to be the best at what you do, and that's something the culture of character rewards over and over again, in so many ways.
3 | Keep Your Word | During the busy hustle and bustle of the work day, it’s easy to have a task fall through the cracks that you had all the purpose and willpower of following through with.
We conveniently label people who fail to keep their word, with euphemisms like 'flaky' or 'scatterbrained', but the truth is that people who say they will do something, but never get around to it are just plain unreliable - and that's the reputation that sticks with them. Keeping your word on everything is difficult, but communicating every step of the way even if it doesn’t happen will make the difference in the eyes of your co-workers or boss.
When given a task, establish the expectation and timeline for the new activity - even if it's long and involved. Is this something that needs to be done today, next week, or a month from now? By setting that expectation, you can arrange it into your time and make sure it gets followed through.
Do your regular tasks within the established time frames, and only take on more if you can keep your word. It’s better to say no and manage expectations strictly, rather than string someone along and have them disappointed (or worse yet tank a project where the task you contributed had critical dependencies or things that hinged on its completion).
There have been times when I got so caught up with putting out a fire or some new 'top level directive' from my boss, that I can’t help my co-worker with their task that I promised I would help with, but I let them know before they can’t do it either and they appreciate that rather than me waiting till the last minute.
If you aren’t busy and you just completely forgot, that’s a different story and your co-worker will be able to see right through that, so don't flake out! Instead, make your word count. Your colleagues will thank you for it and your reputation will gleam!
4 | Keep Your Standards High | When we get comfortable in our roles, it’s easy to lower our standards and just get used to the same-old, same-old. But letting your standards drop means giving yourself permission to do poorer work. Although you may think no one notices, people will pay attention to how you perform. They’ll be all too aware of how you tend to show up, do the bare minimum and disappear at the end of your shift.
Having high standards doesn’t mean you have to burn yourself out trying to achieve perfection. High standards just mean you never accept the easiest way of doing something — you only do the best you can at any time.
High standards mean working hard on a project whether you’re the director or a small contributor. You should continually look over your colleagues’ performance, and see how you can do as well as they are.
The same goes for customer or client expectations. You want them to feel wowed by your service. Routinely asking for feedback and listening to their needs can help you become even better at your job.
5 | Understand Your Team’s Structure | Teams work collectively, but they’re comprised of unique individuals with special skill sets. You should closely study your team to understand each person’s role, and how they contribute to the company’s greater good.
Once you know your team’s dynamic, and how it fits into the organization, it’s easier to define your own position.
Rather than feeling like your success is contingent on others, you recognize each person’s strengths and benchmarks. Shared accomplishment is only possible through continuous, individual achievement.
6 | Collaborate More Often | You should regularly establish team goals to make sure you and your co-workers are all on the same page. This also brings you closer together as a team. You’ll be more likely to invest more in your job when you have a common goal with others.
You can also strive to initiate more conversations with your colleagues. When they finish a task, ask them about their process. Take an interest in their work and what they do for the company.
When you strive to collaborate more, you also make it easier to grow with your colleagues. It can be a challenge developing relationships in the workplace. The best way to begin is by focusing on shared objectives.
As you collaborate more, you’ll get to know each member’s thought process better. You’ll know who’s the best person to ask about something, and whose skills are perfect for remedying a specific problem.
Getting to know others also means letting them get to know you. Your colleagues will find you a much more valuable team member when they have a strong sense of your personality, values, and abilities.
7 | Cut Out Distractions | Being indispensable at work is all about being available. You have to make yourself accessible to people who need you, whether that’s your boss, colleagues, or customers. The best way to do this is by eliminating as much distraction as possible.
When it’s time to work, your focus should be on your tasks. That means not texting during the job, scrolling through social media, or taking personal calls.
While you should still take regular breaks, make them meaningful. Use 10 minutes to chat with a coworker, or take a walk to clear your head and resharpen your focus.
The most important thing is that you avoid letting anything take you away from your job.
8 | Take Initiative | Taking initiative is hard for some people, especially when they worry about overstepping their bounds. But you can learn how to take initiative at work while still respecting everyone.
Initiatives require attention, motivation, and strategy. Someone who takes initiative voices their thoughts, asks for what they need and seeks out solutions. They don’t expect other people to solve their problems for them. They work with the necessary parties to reach a conclusion that benefits everyone involved.
In essence, taking initiative is the same thing as being proactive. It means you take pride in what you do, and you take actionable steps each day to achieve your goals.
When you take initiative, you have to also be willing to seek and accept constructive criticism. You must also be willing to assert yourself more by asking questions, providing feedback, and sharing ideas.
People who take initiative become more confident, better communicators, and, ultimately, indispensable team members.
So What Does It Mean?
Okay, so I fibbed a little bit. When it comes to absolute job security, being truly indispensable at your job is a goal that’s ambitious but unrealistic; everyone at the end of the day is replaceable. But by practicing your skills deliberately, seeking regular feedback, and keeping your word on your duties and tasks, you make yourself an employee that everyone can rely on and look up to and whose value shines through everything you do.
You want your presence at work to be of value. So be more than a butt in a seat! Take the time to get better at your job every day and others will notice. No job or position is ever guaranteed, so always be the best employee you can be and never get complacent in your role. You have eight hours during a day of work, so make that time count. For more career advice, visit our Westgate Blog.
* Westgate Resorts is in no way affiliated with the attractions featured in this article. Items or places listed are current as of the publishing date of this article. Please call or visit the respective website for the most up-to-date offerings and details.
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