How would you like to be certain that you are so valuable to your company, boss, and coworkers that even if jobs are being eliminated around you, you are too valuable to let go? Making Yourself Indispensible by Mark Samuel, one of the most actionable books I’ve read in a long time, promises just that. In it, Samuel lays out a step-by-step process to becoming indispensible at work, at home, and in your community.
Becoming indispensable, Samuel explains, requires that you consistently exhibit the following ten behaviors:
1. Be in service to others without expecting anything in return.
2. Be dedicated to the highest standards of performance, teamwork, and communication.
3. Be open and adaptable.
4. Keep commitments and agreements.
5. Expand your role to support your organization, community, or family.
6. Be a valued resource to others.
7. Be dedicated to self-improvement and professional development.
8. Use obstacles and challenges as opportunities for improvement.
9. Engage and include others when making decisions or changes.
10. Acknowledge and value the contributions of others.
Of utmost importance to becoming indispensable, however, is commitment to exhibiting these behaviors and then holding yourself accountable to that commitment (thus the subtitle of the book, “The Power of Personal Accountability.”)
Holding oneself accountable, according to Samuel, is a matter of making the right choices throughout the day, every day. He offers guidance for those who wish to become indispensable in the form of six fundamental life choices.
The choices that lead to being indispensable
"We make an infinite number of choices each day, but there are six fundamental choices that will dictate our life experience."
The six fundamental life choices that lead to being indispensable serve as guides to daily living. They are choices between the following:
Being driven by a purpose or driven by a goal – Have you ever encountered a customer service agent who truly listens to you and works hard to satisfy your needs? That agent is most likely driven by a purpose (e.g. “Be in service to others.) Have you ever encountered a customer service agent who is clearly reading from a script and ends your interaction by reading a canned statement indicating that their company values its customers? That agent is most likely driven by the goal to read their script with each and every customer.
Choosing to play big or play small – Playing big is about choosing to generously share your skills, talents, and gifts in service of others. Conversely, playing small is about being selfish with your talents and abilities.
Being adaptable or being rigid – In our quickly ever-changing world, being adaptable is critical. Being rigid and sticking with “the way we’ve always done things around here” will quickly make you dispensable.
Being WE centered or ME centered – As Samuel points out, “unless you are a hermit, you are connected to others around you”. Making decisions and taking action in service of others and in full awareness of how it impacts those connected to you leads to being indispensable just as surely as consistently choosing to act only in service of yourself will lead to being dispensable in the eyes of others.
Being focused on priority or activity – Of course you’re busy. We’re all busy. There are way too many things on your list for you to ever truly get everything done. So, Samuel advises that we be ever-mindful of what’s most important when choosing which tasks to check off our never-ending to-do list.
Valuing others or disregarding others – Indispensable people acknowledge others’ contributions while helping others grow and develop. Dispensable people are threatened by the growth and success of others.
Recognize when you're on the Victim Loop
"The Victim Loop is a way of life in which 'stuff' happens to you. You don’t seem to have a choice. Since we all visit it at different times in our lives, the question to ask yourself is not, ‘How do I prevent myself from going there?’ but ‘How fast can I get out of there?’"
Samuel’s roadmap to success depicts two loops (i.e. paths) that we all traverse and have access to: The Accountability Loop and The Victim Loop. Following The Accountability Loop leads to becoming indispensable. Following The Victim Loop leads to being dispensable to others.
Samuel frequently acknowledges that as a human being, I am not only likely, but am absolutely guaranteed, to bounce back and forth between the two loops. He also acknowledges that I might not always realize that I’ve switched to The Victim Loop. And so, he devotes time to describing six phases of The Victim Loop so that readers will recognize when they’ve made a choice that places them on it.
You know you’re on The Victim Loop when you exhibit one of the following behaviors:
- You ignore a problem or issue.
- You deny any responsibility.
- You blame a problem or situation on someone or something else.
- You devote energy to rationalizing my response to a situation.
- You resist the situation or problem (sometimes by throwing a tantrum.)
- You hide from the situation or problem.
Once you realize that you’re on The Victim Loop, Samuel recommends that you leap onto whichever phase of The Accountability Loop that makes the most sense given the details of your situation. There are six phases on The Accountability Loop, and the one that resonated most with me involves taking ownership.
The power of taking ownership
"While it is obvious that when we are the cause of a problem we need to fix it, there are many situations in which we are merely involved in a problem or ‘see’ the problem. We still have the ownership to surface it, contribute to fixing it, and support others in fixing it. This is taking full dominion over the problems impacting your life. This is the step of empowerment."
Taking Ownership is the second phase of The Accountability Loop. It’s what you do if you’ve chosen to play big and become indispensable in an organization. While it requires courage and effort, the reward is empowerment and it’s one of the first steps towards making a difference.
Samuel’s list of places we can take ownership at work is especially helpful. These are seven areas where I think behavior from The Victim Loop runs rampant. The seven areas he lists and challenges the reader to take ownership are the following:
- Ownership in meetings
- Ownership of surfacing and resolving issues
- Ownership of breaking down silos
- Ownership of staying focused on priorities
- Ownership of engagement at all organizational levels
- Ownership of responding to business trends
- Ownership of creating a safe work environment
Making Yourself Indispensable delivers on Samuel’s promise of providing a roadmap for success. While none of what appears in the book surprised me, or struck me as especially new, Samuel managed to keep my attention. In fact, throughout the day I find myself asking if I’m being driven by a purpose or a goal, choosing to play big or small, being adaptable or rigid, being WE centered or ME centered, being focused on priority or activity, and valuing or disregarding others. And, as a result, I find myself taking ownership of more and more.