There is something different about an individual who plays to be indispensable. There is an unmistakable level of engagement and tenacity that keeps such people at the forefront of darn near everything in their sphere of influence. They give it their all, play hard, and play to win. More importantly, they play hard because they want to. They take ownership in creating the right outcomes – without being asked. “Indispensable” means that you wouldn’t want to run your company without them.
On the flipside, there are players on your team who are dispensable. They occasionally, rarely or never step up. They show up, do their job and go home. They expect more for doing the same average performance, and even for doing less. In more deteriorated cases, their view and relationship with the company becomes adversarial, or at best, indifferent. It’s a scary question: How many dispensable players do you have on your team?
Indispensable players are true company assets, but there are other factors and forces at play in every company that inspire or degrade “indispensable” thinking, behavior and performance.
Here are six no-compromise strategies to inspire team players to be indispensable:
- Culture lifts everything: As a business consultant, I run into contaminated cultures all the time. I’m referring to all the funk, drama, double standards and entitlement thinking that sucks the life out of a company. On the other hand, dynamic cultures harness the collective energy of a team and give it lift and energy. Employees want to work there. They feel inspired to perform and achieve. Playing to be indispensable isn’t just an expectation – it’s embedded in the thinking and behavior of the company. Do a reality check on the current state of your company’s culture. If you don’t see people playing to be indispensable, you’ve got a culture shift waiting for the starting gun.
- Being part of something big: I’m a true Aquarian. I’m a flag waver. If I’m not fighting for a worthy cause, I’m miserable and it shows in everything I do. People play harder for causes they believe in. People step up and do the extraordinary because they want to help push the company one notch closer to its goal and vision. People fight to survive, to win, to achieve, to reach their full potential and to be part of something big. What’s your company’s “something big”?
- Expressions of appreciation: Relentlessly stepping up and doing what needs to be done can turn to indifference and resentment when “indispensable” efforts are taken for granted. No-compromise leaders take the time to say “thank you” and show appreciation. The reality show “Undercover Boss” is the perfect example. Every episode has a company leader working “undercover” alongside employees and discovering how the company is taking indispensable employees for granted. When the leader is finally revealed, employees are finally appreciated and rewarded. The common “ah ha” that each boss discovers is the need to engage with employees at all levels and show appreciation. When was the last time you put some real effort into bonding one-on-one with your employees?
- One playbook: Conflicting agendas, mixed messages and poor information flow sap energy from a company. People play harder to be indispensable when everyone around them is pushing and pulling the company in the same direction. Information flow is one of the drivers in business. People can’t play to win if they don’t know the score. Count the playbooks in your company. If there’s more than one playbook, pick one. If you can’t find one, you’ve got bigger problems.
- No dragging anchors: I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time staying enthusiastic and pushing forward while some people are perfectly fine kicking back and watching their teammates do the work. If you’ve been dragging anchors, it’s time to cut them loose. No compromise.
- Beware of compromise: If you see a problem in your company and do nothing about it, I call that “compromise.” Compromise contaminates business cultures and dials down the ability and enthusiasm of key players striving to be indispensable. Compromise begins and ends with the company’s leaders. Where does compromise flourish in your company?
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