In Times of Crisis, all the rules change
In times of change, it’s often a good idea to think about how to become more irreplaceable in your company. Many organizations use times of crisis as an opportunity to “trim the fat” – looking at people that are just doing okay things at okay levels but usually not bad enough to let go.
In times like these they start to evaluate who in a company actively takes the company to new levels or at least increases the chances of the company surviving.
And the unfortunate thing is, most of the time the people who are doing the best work are not recognized compared to the people who are good at getting credit.
Case in point (I literally just thought of this as I am writing this email): many years ago I helped my wife who was working at a big bank write an email to her VP.
He immediately printed it out and asked to meet with her. In the meeting he exclaimed that she saw everything that he is worried about so clearly and he decided to give her a lot more new responsibilities on an important project.
The project my wife spearheaded turned out to be the only project that was launched within the deadline AND within budget in her seven years of being there.
Now here’s the kicker, a year later the VP met with her again, and he said, “If you had not written that email to me a year ago, you would have actually been laid off…failure to recognize talent is Management’s fault but I’m glad we didn’t make that mistake.”
Here’s the thing. My wife has financial engineering skills that is way beyond me. She will often discover calculation flaws in a large institution that would take three months to mathematically prove to coworkers! However, she’s not good at empathetic writing, human motivation, and behavioral design. That’s where my strengths came in handy.
Now I didn’t think I would actually save my wife’s job when I wrote that email, but based on the motivation profiles of her coworkers, I thought it would be a helpful thing to do (and yes I do listen carefully to my wife when she talks about her day).
Again, just because you are good at your job doesn’t mean your value is recognized by your company.
This one up here is the 2×2 Corporate Matrix. While I don’t want to spend a lot of time going through this in detail, they key here is that some people try to thrive in an organization through strong political skills, while some try to thrive through strong performance. Of course there are people who have both.
The key here is that, during times of peace and stability, political skills often get rewarded. After all, since everyone is comfortable, the motivation to not disturb/anger others exceeds that of delivering great work.
But that suddenly flips around during times of crisis. It’s a do-or-die situation for both the organization and the managers that make career-affecting decisions. They are not going to risk performance/survival just for those that make them emotionally feel good (employees that go golfing with them and do mutual home BBQs)
Ever wonder how startups with only twenty people and very little money can beat huge companies with twenty-thousand people and billions of dollars? (Often these large corporations simply give up and buy the startups for a Billion Dollars).
It’s because for a startup it is ALWAYS do-or-die. Every startup employee needs to constantly learn new skills and unleash their full potential because… the default is death.
If one team member performs mediocrely, that’s 5% of the organization being mediocre! As a result, everyone NEEDS to be Performers and Stars in the above 2×2 framework, and there is no room for Politicians.
This compared to big companies in peaceful times – most people just work hard enough to get a paycheck, and then they stop. Extra energy is dedicated to playing politics as that gets rewarded the most.
Few people go on to learn disruptive new skills, take on innovative new projects (after all, why risk all this comfort for a chance of failure?), or come up with new systems to mobilize their workplace.
During a crisis, just like working in startups, EVERYONE has to become a Performer or Star. This means that everyone should look at doing these things:
- Learn brand new sellable skills for the new economy
- Go beyond your responsibilities and start innovative projects that could increase your value or the strength of your organization (potentially more importantly – be recognized for it)
- Improve on persuasive and empathetic communication skills to guide Management and help them feel secure BECAUSE of your involvement
- Start taking initiative and coordinate with other departments to help them charter through new challenges (such as working remotely)
For myself, I immediately looked to innovate in the Remote Work space and created the REMOTE Work Cultural Framework. It has drawn a lot of attention (virtual speeches, podcasts, book request) in just a week!
Of course, I’m not stopping there. There are a hundred things I want to do and learn in order to come out 5x stronger than before the crisis started.
What about you? What have you been doing to ensure that you are making yourself more irreplaceable in your workplace? Or at least, what is your game plan for this? Because business-as-usual is not going to work. Doing the exact same thing and hoping things will work out is not a winning strategy.
It’s time to Upgrade Yourself and Create Next-Level Stuff!
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