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5 Keys to Becoming Indispensable at Work

Posted on May 28th, 2014 by Chris Gaborit

There are times when every business is going through a restructure. Some companies seem to do this every few years, some every year, and some seem to be undergoing one eternal restructure!

Have you ever noticed that some people are restructure proof? Fear does not grip their body at the mention of that word. They never leave. They never get demoted. They are important to the company.

This reminds me of a story. Please excuse me; we are a training company, so there is always a story.

A big corporation hired several cannibals. “You are all part of our team now,” said the HR manager during the welcome briefing. “You get all the usual benefits and you can go to the cafeteria for something to eat, but please don’t eat any of the other employees.

The cannibals promised they would not.

A few weeks later, the cannibals’ boss remarked, “You’re all working very hard, and I’m satisfied with you. However, one of our secretaries has disappeared. Do any of you know what happened to her?” The cannibals all shook their heads, “No,” they said.

After the boss left, the leader of the cannibals said to the others angrily, “Right, which one of you idiots ate the secretary?” A hand rose hesitantly in admission. “You fool!” said the leader. “For weeks, we’ve been eating managers and no one noticed anything, but noooooo, you had to go and eat someone important!”

Are you someone important to your company? Would they miss you if you were no longer there?

When most people hear that dreaded word ‘restructure,’ fear fills their mind and the thought arises: “Am I going to be made redundant?” This is generally followed by a blubbering cry of, “Who will hire me? I have a mortgage to pay, car payments, and I need money to wash the dog!”

How can we make sure that we are someone important? What can we do to be in the best position to remain in the company? How can we be one of those people that are indispensable?

In my preparation for writing this blog, I decided to get some wisdom from people I respect. I asked some of our best clients — senior managers who work for global companies. These people have walked the walk; they have been bulletproof when it comes to restructure.

These are their five keys to becoming indispensable at work:

1.   Hold the mindset that change provides opportunity.

There is an ancient wisdom etched into Chinese vocabulary. The Chinese ideogram for crisis consists of two separate characters. One means danger; the other means opportunity. The proper translation is that a crisis is a dangerous opportunity. When confronted with a crisis, you need to recognise both the danger and the opportunity. Often the danger is more readily apparent, while the opportunity can be deftly concealed. The thing to keep in mind is to look for the opportunity as well as the danger. Crisis holds the potential for both.

In studying hundreds of famous people, whether politicians, sportspeople, business people, or spiritual leaders, I have found that crisis comes to every person in some way. Those who rise in the midst of crisis and see it as an opportunity to change and grow become greater and more powerful. They reach heights that they would never have attained had they never experienced that crisis. As masterful innovator Walt Disney put it, “You may not realise it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth might be the best thing in the world for you.”

When change is imminent, hold the mindset that change provides opportunity, remain positive, and don’t dwell on the danger but dwell on the opportunity.

2.   Do not overfocus on the next job position but rather on the skills to be developed.

I think that most people today are aware that the company does not have the same amount of loyalty to you that they used to a few years ago. There was a time the company would have a track for your life. You could go and meet with your manager and they could tell you where you are going and when you will get there.

Today, you are your manager and you need to plan out your own career path to your dream job. Therefore, it is important that you are not focused on the job position, but rather on the skills required.

I like to say it like this: “You have to do the job before you get the title.” In other words, if you want to be the CIO, then you need to develop the hard and soft skills required for a CIO; you need the education of a CIO, you need to start dressing like a CIO, acting like a CIO, speaking like a CIO, and then one day, when you have had the right amount of experience, someone is going to say, “I think Jessica would make a great CIO!”

3.   Building relationships with key decision makers.

It’s not only what you know but whom you know. I have seen people scoot all the way up the ladder of a company through being connected closely with key decision makers.

Think of football coaches: they build their team and work with players for years, and then they get headhunted to another club as head coach, and what is the first thing they do? They try to get their key players to move to the new club, as well. They are like a positive cliché. Where one goes, they all go. Some coaches and key players move together all the way through their playing life.

Why? Because just as the players think that the coach has made them succeed, the coach thinks that the players have helped him or her succeed. They are a powerful team, and they feel powerful together.

Sir Edmund Hillary was a world class mountain climber however even he needed Tenzing Norgay to help him climb Everest. We all need a Norgay, that is, an “internal coach” whom we can work with and who would support us to climb our Everest.

4.   Exhibit the ability to get ‘stuff’ done.

How do you build these key relationships? You build them by working on projects with key stakeholders, complimenting their skills, and making them look good.

As one senior manager put it to me, “Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work for some great ‘blue sky’ leaders, but they couldn’t project-manage their way out of a lunch bag. While I’ve probably not been the best at brainstorming new and creative ideas, in many situations I’ve been able to take their ‘kernel’ of an idea, pour some fertiliser on it, and make it grow and flourish into a great program and actually implement it.”

In projects, there are two key parts–the front end and the back end, people and tasks, marketing and operations, talkers and doers. If the key stakeholder is a talker, then you need to be a doer. If you are the key doer to the key stakeholder, then you ain’t going nowhere fast! They need you to keep making their projects succeed.

5.   Treat everyone with genuine respect.

It’s not just about managing well, but also about how you treat your peers, team members, and vendors alike. You never know who you may be working for or with some day, so treat everyone as you’d want to be treated and keep confidences when someone confides in you and wants some advice. As one senior manager in a global I.T. company put it to me, “I believe in creating good karma with those you interact with.”

Along with the other things I have mentioned, this will stand you in good stead with decision makers and bring you allies and supporters in the organisation. When business takes a turn for the worse and they’re considering who to cut, you often won’t make the list if you have built those relationships and have shown the ability to deliver with quality over and over again.

How One Client Changed The World in 30 Days

Posted on October 14th, 2013 by Victoria Kossoff

Almost everyday we read something about Innovation and Creativity  – How to be more innovative; How to think outside the box; Ways to inspire your teams to be more innovative.

How often do you actually see innovation come alive in your organsation? The truth is probably not very often. Our own boundaries and experiences can limit the way we think and even organisation structure and politics can stifle any ideas we have.

I am lucky in my job that I get to work with clients who are thinking of news ways to overcome problems, who seek to deliver better quality, who believe there is another way to kick goals – all in a faster time.

Let me tell you about a recent client project we had. Our client, who is a global research company, recently launched an innovative, world-leading software which changes the way market research is conducted. They needed to train 3800 people (who were all located in different locations across Australia) in 30 days on this new technology and tool prior to the launch date.

They had no trainers on staff, a limited budget and huge time pressures.

WHAT THEY WISHED FOR

They needed a pool of trainers (who were based locally in Australia); a training logistics team to manage the roll-out of the huge project; and a technology platform to register participants onto programs as well as run reports.

WE DELIVERED

Our team worked their magic in record time. Our flexible and scalable training solution made our client’s dreams come true!

Why not take a look at our short video to see how we helped our client change the world?

 

Leadership lessons from a bowl of porridge

Posted on May 9th, 2013 by Chris Gaborit

Let’s face it, change is a pain. My wife loves to cook and decided she wanted a Thermomix for her birthday.  Although there is no appliance she doesn’t already own, a Thermomix was what she wanted. If you are novice like me, buying a Thermomix is like buying a BMW for the kitchen (almost as expensive), however we gave her what she wanted.  “Happy wife, happy life” has been a long held motto of mine after I learnt it from our local Italian deli owner.

Since then we have been experiencing amazing quality cooking like I have never had before. BUT (and there is always a but), I didn’t understand this German technology at all. There it sits on the kitchen bench all shiny and proud, but to me scary as hell. Like a loyal blue heeler cattle dog, who loves its owner but bites any stranger who approaches it.

Just after it’s arrival my wife, a born and bred teacher, attempted to show me how to make scrambled eggs. There were more keystrokes to remember than attempting to join two photos together using Adobe Photoshop! In the end I promptly made a mental note – “avoid the blue heeler”.

The other day I set a new goal; start eating a healthier breakfast.  Was that me deciding that or my doctor? Hmmm. Anyhow I decided I wanted to cook some porridge. I have been cooking porridge since Adam was a boy, the old fashioned way: cup of porridge, cup of water, cup of milk, place in pot on top of stove, turn on heat.

Watching like a hawk as I entered the ‘training zone’ of the kitchen, my wife thought it was time to teach me how to make porridge using “The Beast”.

My wife was giving instructions like Captain Kirk sitting in the Bridge of the Enterprise under attack from the Klingons. I was madly fumbling about struggled to find the correct buttons on the dashboard. The end result: a hot creamy, exceptional tasting bowl of oats, a hundred times better than what I’ve ever made before. But could I repeat this performance without her?

I immediately took a photo of the directions she had written out for me and stored it in my Evernote App.

It’s weeks later and today was porridge day again. I, a mere mortal man without my Captain Kirk was about to tackle the Kitchen BMW; The Beast; the Photoshop of Cooking Utensils to make my porridge.

I turned The Beast on, which in itself is a challenge as the button is nowhere any “on” button has ever been before. I then found and pressed the scale button once to weigh the porridge, pressed it again to weigh the water, pressed it three times to weigh the milk and then put on the lid(s). Timer adjusted. Check. Temperature button pressed. Check. Speed button regulated. Check.

For a moment I had become the Captain Kirk of the Thermomix. Nine minutes later I had my masterpiece, Voila! Perfect porridge.

So now I reflect on this experience. Change is a pain.

I prefer the tried and true old ways. The old familiar ways are established, painless, yes they take longer but I am used to that. Like an old T-shirt, they are comfortable, familiar and smell good. Plus with change there is more time required. Learning takes time and brainpower. I am an impatient man, I want to learn fast but I can’t.

There is the unfamiliarity and frustration of the new way. Added with the exasperation that comes when the new way initially has challenges or doesn’t work as well because I don’t know it well enough yet. It’s not in my subconscious mind.

But when I do persist and breakthrough a miracle occurs. There is an exhilaration of success when the new way does work, and better still, it works easier, it works better and it will continue working because I have mastered a new and effective process.

Thank God for change – it brings reward!

How many times in our business life do we find the same thing?

  • People resisting change because they are comfortable with the old process
  • People rejecting performance improvement because its hard to learn, takes effort and energy
  • People frustrated with the new software, PM methodology etc. because initially it is taking longer to work with

However the lesson learned from my Thermomix experience is that as humans if  we persist and breakthrough we often discover many more rewards for ourselves.  As leaders our job is to inspire and show our teams the vision of what they could be after they embrace change!! Hmmm, something to ponder over as I eat another bowl of porridge.

Author: Chris Gaborit – Director, The Learning Factor

 

 

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