Sample Chapter

See below for the Introduction

“You are not a typical employee.

You are not satisfied by barely eking out an existence.  You can’t get excited about sacrificing your weeks and working for the weekend.  And you refuse to mindlessly execute your tasks, glazed over in front of your monitor.

No, you have higher ambitions – and better prospects – than the typical cubicle drone.  You want to be engaged.  You want to be challenged.  And you want to excel at your job.  You want promotions, raises, and the corner office, not to mention respect, autonomy, and satisfaction.  In short, you want to prove that you are so talented, so effective, and so helpful as to be considered indispensable by your organization.

Indispensable:  The Inside Track to Workplace Success provides direction for becoming the best employee you can be.  Whether starting a new job, meeting a new boss, or taking on a new assignment, Indispensable will give you the strategies you need to excel in organizational life.  In the course of the next thirteen chapters, Indispensable will lay out the blueprint for excellence in your job, answering questions like:

  • What are the characteristics of indispensable employees?  What qualities does my boss look for in me as an employee?
  • What can I do to become indispensable in my job?  How can I develop these qualities in myself?
  • What are the benefits of becoming indispensable?  Why would I want to put in the effort?

So prepare yourself.  You have in your hand the playbook for becoming excellent at your job, happier in your workplace, and indispensable to your organization.  It’s time to go to work.

Characteristics of Indispensable Employees
Despite the great variety of jobs out there, the qualifications that organizations look for in their employees for are shockingly similar.  Think about it:  most jobs require some similar skills such as communication, organization, teamwork, and problem-solving.  Thus, whether you are designing furniture or balancing the books, a common set of strategies will help you become excellent.

First, you nail the basics.  These are the underlying requirements for not only becoming an indispensable employee, but also for being a functional worker.  Towards this end, you present yourself professionally, adopt a great attitude, and invest yourself in the mission of your organization.  You also seek out information about your industry, your organization, and your position, knowing that learning as much as you can will help you later.  And even though you may not yet know how to dispatch your duties superbly, you still do everything in your power to set yourself up for long-term success.  Remembering that reputations are set early on and can become hard to alter, you demonstrate all these positive traits from your first day on the job, confirming that you are an employee who can be depended upon from the get-go.  Chapters One through Five help you excel as you establish your first impression on the job.

Second, you excel at execution.  At the beginning, you take pains to execute even the least interesting of tasks in an efficient and error-free manner.  There is no task that is beneath you as you build your reputation.  You know that dependability is a prerequisite to being entrusted with more responsibility.  Later, as you gain experience, you execute your job not only competently, but excellently.  You finish your work well and communicate it effectively.  You bravely address problems and interpersonal issues when they come up.  Task-by-task, you prove yourself, building confidence and earning more and more trust.  Chapters Six through Eleven give advice to help you establish not only your competence, but also your excellence.

And finally, you exceed expectations.  As an indispensable employee, you do more than is asked of you.  Instead of sticking to your narrow job description, you make an impact beyond your explicit responsibilities.  You make improvements to your organization.  You work to make your boss’s life easier and to deliver for your constituents.  And you proactively push you own professional development, going beyond the formal feedback processes to drive your growth.  Chapters 12 and 13 lay out strategies for going beyond excellent execution and exceeding all expectations.  This is the realm of moving from being an indispensable employee to an emergent leader.

Implementing Indispensable Strategies
How do you put all this into action?  Before starting, there are a few prerequisites:  basic qualifications for your job, a commitment to hard work, and the willingness to thoughtfully apply the indispensable strategies to your job.

First, to become indispensable at work, you need to be able to do your job.  However it pains me to admit it, I will never be a Cirque de Soleil acrobat.  True, I am excited about trampolines (less so about the clowns), but I have never mastered the cartwheel.  Now, the chances are that you have all the right stuff to be able to do your job well – whether that requires brainpower, communication skills, or multiple backward handsprings.  In fact, you wouldn’t have been hired for your position unless you were seen as competent by at least a couple of people in Human Resources.  But for full disclosure, I’ll say it here:  Underneath it all, you need the raw ability to do your job before you’re able to apply the principles of this book.  But given that you have the basic ability, Indispensable can help you become excellent at what you do.

Second, you need to commit yourself to hard work.  Becoming an indispensable employee takes longer hours, harder work, and greater mental exertion than remaining a run-of-the-mill employee.  You could continue to do what you do every day and continue to see average results; it is often easy to coast by at the status quo.  But realizing a step-change improvement in your performance – going from average employee to exceptional employee – requires more.  Dedicate yourself to the work it will take to become indispensable.

And third, you need to be thoughtful about your application of the indispensable strategies.  While these strategies all apply in some way, a subset of strategies will be most relevant in your organization, to your current role, at this moment in time.  Jobs are admittedly very different; developing a marketing campaign for Pepsi in Pondicherry is quite unlike driving a forklift in Pittsburgh.  Thus, to reap the maximum benefits of Indispensable you must be smart about applying these strategies.  Take all the strategies of Indispensable to heart, but think critically about which few of them will be most applicable to you.  With time, you will use the indispensable strategies like a good artist, choosing your tactics and approaches like the painter selects brushes and colors.

Further, you must adapt these strategies not only to fit your job, but also to fit your personality.  For example, while some of the diplomatic approaches suggested later would sound very natural coming from one person, they could seem insincere when used by another.  Similarly, different employees may find themselves endorsing the mission of their organization in different ways; one employee may wear the organization’s mission on her sleeve, while another may quietly but sincerely ascribe to its values.  Remember that the indispensable strategies are yours to use.  Do not subsume yourself and your unique personality to these strategies, but instead seek to make them your own.

Benefits of Indispensability
This may seem like a lot of work.  It is.  The road to indispensability is long, but the rewards are worth the effort.

The most basic benefit of becoming indispensable is exactly that:  indispensability.  When the economy takes a dive, pink slips materialize and long-term job security disappears.  Today, we know that reality all too well from the continuing economic instability we face.  In the midst of tough times, distinguishing yourself from the pack helps you keep your paycheck.  Becoming indispensable also helps prevent underemployment, a state in which people settle for jobs which require less than they’re able to contribute; you become more likely to move up to a fuller, more ambitious role when it becomes available.

But the point of becoming indispensable is not simply job security.  Further incentives can come in the form of financial gain – bonuses to reward exceptional performance, raises to drive continued excellence, and growing opportunities to share in the organization through profit-sharing and stock options.

Beyond this, the intangible benefits of becoming indispensable are arguably even more rewarding.  Smart organizations know that indispensable employees are looking for engagement at the highest level; they seek intellectual stimulation, the opportunity to make a valuable contribution, belonging to a community, and a sense of purpose.  Indispensable employees are more likely to realize all of these aspirations.  They are given more interesting and more important work.  They are entrusted to work autonomously, eliminating the need for close management.  They are given the freedom to work flexibly and to manage their own hours.  As a result, they are more likely to be not just satisfied with their jobs, but delighted by them.

The benefits of becoming indispensable are manifold, but it is short-sighted to only count the benefits to your current job.  Though we must re-establish ourselves in each new endeavor, we carry much of our indispensable momentum with us.  Positive performance assessments give indispensable employees leverage to secure plum new projects.  Similarly, satisfied managers are more likely to suggest indispensable employees for promotions.   And, when changing jobs, managers are more likely to provide positive references for indispensable employees.  Thus, though Indispensable may appear to be about becoming indispensable to one boss, the book is really about becoming indispensable to any organization lucky enough to have you as an employee.

Though all this may all seem difficult, you can do it.  Remember:  You are not the typical employee.  You have higher aspirations.  And by caring to make yourself indispensable – by caring to read this book – you are already on the inside track to workplace success.