Not So Indispensable

So I heard a story from a friend and colleague that I thought was important. 


It was about someone in their organization that was being fired. 


The person who was going to be let go went up the chain to complain and said “if I am fired then everything in my subject area is going to fall apart and it will be disastrous to the organization.


The person in charge responded and said, “Listen, even if I were fired, things wouldn’t fall apart; within 2 weeks no one would even remember that I worked here!”


Wow, that is a powerful lesson said that way. 


No one is so indispensable.


Everyone is replaceable.


Even the very top people!


The other important thing they said was:


“Don’t think all people are in it to advance the organization; many are in it to help themselves first! Everyone is talking about their salary!  Their stock options!  Their bonuses!”


I guess it’s not completely surprising right.  People do have to look after themselves and their families. But I suppose when you hear it so matter of factly, it sort of really makes you think about the functioning of our companies, agencies, and society.


How much are we getting from people for our organizations and missions vs. how much are people trying to “milk” the system for their benefit?


In the end, (almost) no one is irreplaceable on the job–except maybe a Steve Jobs-type–someone who is truly a one in a million leader. 


And if we see people aren’t contributing their fair share and are taking more than they are giving or they are real jerks and hurting others–then why the heck are they still in place? 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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The Lights Never Really Go Off

Light Switch

It was interesting at work recently, when a colleague was contemplating what to do about some key person being out of the office and unavailable…



And they go: “Next man or women up–last one flips off the light.”



In other words as they say, the show must go on!



So hurry up and let’s get the person’s deputy, “second,” or the next one on the ladder read in and working on this. 



When it comes to work, we can’t stop because someone is “out of pocket”–the job presuposes any particular person or persons.



While many peope think (or wish) they are irreplaceable, the truth is that with the exception of your closest family and friends, we are all just shy of, “Okay, whose up next?”



I remember a friend who told me many years ago that he believed that the whole world revolved around him (yes really), and that everyone else was “just a figment of my imagination.”



Ha, I’m pretty sure that a lot of people have had a similar thought or sentiment about themselves. 



But the truth is that while everyone is unique and invaluable–there are over 7 billion of us out there and growing–so there is always someone else waiting in the wings to jump on an opportunity to fill someone else’s shoes (no matter how big). 



It is a harsh world and reality–but we are here as long as we are here, and then there are others who come after. 



In a sense, this is a good thing, because as mere mortals, we don’t want everything to depend on us–we are frail, we get sick, we die–but by having others who can step in and carry the flag forward, our efforts do not end with us. 🙂



(Source Photo: here with attribution to Niklas Morberg)

Will You Be Missed?

Will You Be Missed?

There’s a question everyone always ask themselves–when they are gone from an organization will they be missed?

We all tell ourselves that we are irreplaceable–when we leave everything will fall apart, that “then they will be sorry,” and maybe they will finally appreciate us.

But when calmer heads prevail, we sort of know the truth that we are all indeed replaceable–there are others just waiting in the wings to swoop in for a chance to do our job and perhaps better than we ourselves did it.

But won’t we be missed? They’ll be a party, cards, well wishes, maybe even gifts, and people will say how much they will miss us, but then when we are gone–24, 48, 72 hours later–does anyone really care?

If we left things in disarray and without a succession plan–we kept it all in our head waiting for the day to show them all–then there will be a period that may not be so pretty for the others taking on the responsibilities we are leaving behind.

However, someone who would do that to the organization and their fellow employees, you may ask what good were they really anyway?

For the most part, when people leave, I think there is a transition period for people to adjust to change–this is normal, and then after that people go on thinking about life afterwards.

– What new opportunities are there for them? In a crude way, some may even think that there is now one less person for them to have to climb over to advance. With someone leaving, one can say even that their power flows back and is dispersed to the others in the organization to “pick up the baton,” influence and lead.

– Some may realize that the problems the person brought to the organization (and everyone brings a mixed bag–both good and bad), have now left with them. Were they entrenched in the current ways of doing things and naysayers to any sort of change? Did they have an ego and a sense of entitlement after serving for years? Had they become stale and fallen behind the times in terms of best practices, new technologies, and so on?

– Others can look forward to new people and “fresh blood” coming in–reinvigorating the organization, bringing in new perspectives, fresh ideas, or as they say, “mix it up a little,” shake the limbs, ask questions of the status quo–of course, you never really know about a new person, until the marriage equivalent of “you wake up with them in the morning”–you see how they actually perform on the job, in the culture, with the people.

Sure, there are some special people that are practically irreplaceable, because they are such visionaries, innovators, and leaders of people–that they are truly one in ten million. Steve Jobs is one of those that come to mind. These are the exceptions, not the rule.

For most people, we give to the organization and provide value–some people thrive for years or decades. It is individualistic and depends on many factors but especially the person to job fir and the person to organization fit. Factors that are in some ways quantifiable based on knowledge, skills, and abilities, but also depends on personality, culture, style, adaptability, motives, and many more things.

When a person is a good or great fit–there is almost nothing better for them and the organization then a long and productive marriage of the two!

But when the fit is bad–then it is bad for the person and the organization–there can be poor productivity, negative interrelationships, and bitter feelings.

Depending on the situation and fit…Often we wished people stayed longer and could keep giving their gift. Sometimes people know when the tea leaves are telling them to move on and the fit is no longer right. And still other times, some people overstay their visit and thereby do more harm then good.

How will people see you when it your time to leave? You want to be missed for all the right reasons. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Bernt Rostad)

Are They Anything Without Him?

Sometimes, one person can be so instrumental to the success of an organization that they really are, for all intensive purposes, irreplaceable.

Leadership classes and anecdotes about great leaders tell us that one of leaders primary duties is a good succession plan.

But what happens, when a visionary place like Apple, loses their very special talent–someone that is truly their “secret sauce”–someone like a Steve Jobs–who you can’t just replicate or replace (easily or maybe at all)?

While Apple still makes great products, the jury is still out on whether they can truly innovate without Job’s vision, exacting attention to detail, and bigger than life persona.

Hence, the question, are they anything without him?

Perhaps, Apple can find the next Steve Jobs–who will bring new energy and talents and keep them a great organization–or perhaps not.

This new movie about Jobs–played by Ashton Kutcher will remind us of the magic that a truly special leader can bring to an organization.

If only there was a pill to swallow to make talented leaders–now that would be a job for Jobs. 😉

The Irreplaceables

Traditionally, people like to invest in things that they feel are “irreplaceable” (or priceless to them)…that unique outfit, that piece of Jewelry (gold is in vogue again at $1900 an ounce), that one-of-a-kind art work, that special home-sweet-home (i.e. not cookie-cutter), and most importantly that special relationship (i.e. people are truly irreplaceable and they are an investment not of money, but of our heart and soul!).

In fact, when we spend our hard-earned money, only to see something break down after a relatively short period of time, we feel upset, angry, almost betrayed–like we got taken by the salesperson or manufacturer.
Years ago, engineers actually made things with “planned obsolescence”–that is built to break down after a certain period of time (i.e. “designed for the dump”)–usually coinciding with the end of the period of warranty, so that consumers would be forced to open their wallets again and feed the giant sales apparatus, called our economy.
Yet, in the age of information technology and consumer electronics, while we don’t want to see things break down, we do want a fast replacement cycle on them–since the technology and features are changing so quickly.
The Atlantic (September 2011) has an interesting article about this called Replacement Therapy–describing the trend of consumers of technology who actually cheer on the death of their gadgets, so that they don’t feel so guilty and wasteful buying the newest models with the latest features every 18 months or so.
According to the author, many of us have “turned into serial replacers” of technology–so that the twist is that it’s no longer “our devices that wear thin, [but rather] it’s our patience with them.”
This is Moore’s Law at it’s extreme–where the speed of technological progress make our most recent IT purchase practically obsolete by the time we plug it in.
I have to admit that I too don’t mind replacing yesterdays tech toys, today–because the newest functionality and design make it worth it to me.
Relatively speaking the computing power and connectivity we are getting is so cheap for what it is–which is life-changing.
I rely on the technology all the time (probably way too much–cyber security beware!) and for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, you can be at the top of your game.
To me it’s not the gadget that is irreplaceable anymore, but it’s the capability we are bringing to people.
Our life experiences are so much enhanced–because of the technology, we can share information, communicate, collaborate, transact, and entertain ourselves and each other like never before in history–those experiences are truly irreplaceable for each and every one of us–and that is more than any money can buy.
(Source Photo: here)