When I was small, and was lurking or bored, my grandmother would look me in the eye and say ‘make yourself useful’. She didn’t tell me what to do, she told me to look around and see what needs doing. I took this for granted, that that was the way people think, the way they are raised and trained: to look around the room and identify the most important things that need doing that they are capable of and then go do them. This early training in how to see problems is probably a key reason why I became an entrepreneur and business owner, and run a pretty trim household (thanks Oma).
But its not the case. Many many people simply wait to be told what to do. This is confusing to me as a citizen, friend, employer.
If you want to be indispensable, central, important to an organization, this has to change- you have to start thinking like an owner. Some things are obvious- they need to be done and they are in the bailiwick of your current role. Some things may need buy-in.
Assuming you already know what your organization does, what it’s strategy is, and who it serves- when seeking how to add value, take a look around your workplace- no matter where you fit in the structure, ask yourself:
- What needs to be done? Where is there opportunity?
- What hasn’t been considered? What isn’t being done well?
- Where can we be more efficient? Where do we streamline?
- What are the priorities? What creates the most value?
- What do our clients need? What do our customers need?
- What do my colleagues need?How can I be helpful?
I guarantee that if you are asking these questions on a regular basis, you are going to find some pretty big places to add value- and impress people by simply organizing your thoughts and making the case for improvements. Quickly, you become not only useful, but indispensable. You become one of the people who create improvements, positive change.
The threshold version of making yourself useful is simply not making yourself a burden. If someone gives you a monkey, never throw the monkey back to them. That is to say, if a thing is delegated to you to do, figure it out. Ask for clarification and then be resourceful and get it done. Only if you really hit a difficult place or need advice, are absolutely stuck- do you go back for more guidance. It’s not social hour- it’s work. Make good use of everyone’s time- the last think you want is for someone to be thinking, “if I have to explain it this much I might as well do it myself.” Because then you ARE dispensable. And we both know that you are much bigger and better and can play a more impactful role than that.
So get out there, and make yourself useful. It’s your own personal lifetime employment act.