The news that basketball star Jeremy Lin will undergo knee surgery and miss the rest of the regular season comes as a blow to his career and his team. Last fall when Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies tore his Achilles tendon on the final play of the 2011 regular season, there was widespread debate about how his injury – which will most likely cause him to miss a big chunk of 2012 – will affect the team's performance.
The injuries of these star athletes raise the question of whether any of us can really be indispensable at work – that is, assuming we're not six-foot-three and a star point guard with the New York Knicks, or a first baseman in the major leagues.
Frankly, I've always had my doubts. But a new book, Making Yourself Indispensable, by executive coach Mark Samuel, answers the skeptics. "Becoming indispensable doesn't require college degrees, a management role, or huge income. Anyone can do it." he writes. Here are the steps he recommends.
"Me-oriented" people focus on their own success at the expense or exclusion of others. In contrast, good team players are "we-oriented," supporting colleagues without any expectation of personal benefit or payoff.
Dedicate yourself to high standards of performance, teamwork and communication. The difference here is between just doing enough to get by and not lose your job, and constantly doing your best while supporting co-workers and supervisors.
Those who cling to past people, technology or procedures risk getting the axe. We can't arrest the path of change, so it's best to stop talking about the good old days. Instead, be open and flexible to new conditions or technology. Better yet, anticipate what's coming and stay one step ahead of the curve.
Develop a reputation for following up on everything you say you're going to do. If a problem surfaces, let people know ahead of time and agree on an alternative course of action.
Expand your role to support your organization. Don't limit yourself to assignments or tasks that are clearly within your authority. Instead, take on tasks that are outside your job description in order to support your company or team. Overdeliver by finishing assignments ahead of schedule, rather than just making the deadline.
Be a resource
Invest the time to become a resource for information, contacts or problem solving. Co-workers will pick up on that and reach out to you for support.
Build your human capital
No matter how experienced you are, there's always room to learn new skills or improve your performance. Don't wait for the boss to tell you what you need to do. Regularly assess yourself and embrace opportunities to work on self-improvement and professional development.
Turn adversity to advantage
When you're faced with challenges and mistakes, it's easy to give up, retreat, or get stuck in frustration. Instead, persevere to achieve your goals and use whatever difficulties you've encountered to learn and improve.
Don't work in isolation
You may think you know what's best, but getting other perspectives can help refine your ideas. Before drawing conclusions, reach out to include the people who will be affected by your actions or who could help refine your thinking, and get their input.
In today's fast-paced workplace, it may seem like there's little time for praise. But acknowledging the contributions of others or celebrating their achievements will help bring you all closer together.