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How replaceable are you?

Tom Wall Published on 21 September 2010

It’s just another harsh reality of life: We’re all replaceable. Sooner or later, someone or something comes along and ends your reign at the top. Okay, maybe you’re not at the top quite yet. Nonetheless, you’re still working hard to keep moving onward and upward to get there. Or maybe it’s true that you may have already been on top and now you’re trying to work your way back to where you belong.

Either way, it seems no person or company stays on top forever. Remember when Blockbuster Video, Brittany Spears, Krispy Kreme and the San Francisco 49ers seemed unstoppable? And then, somehow they were replaced.

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Of course, no human being is literally replaceable. Without question, every person is unique in their own way. Unlike material things that can be easily replaced, you cannot. The essence of who you really are – your personality, sense of humor and beliefs – make you one-of-a-kind. But as it relates to how you fit into the rest of the world, life continues to move on even when you do.

In business, even if an entire company relies on the talent, expertise and strengths of just one individual, eventually someone else will take this person’s place. And if that key person isn’t replaced by someone with similar skills in a timely manner, it’s likely that a different company will either buy the “leaderless” organization or simply focus on capturing its market share. Some way or another, the world keeps turning and we all move on.

Now by no means am I saying that striving to do your best is a waste of time and energy. The reality that we’re all replaceable shouldn’t discourage your current efforts, but rather motivate you to focus on creating and shaping your own future. Whether your name is on the building or you’re a newly hired employee, you ultimately control how replaceable you are within your organization.

If you’re relentlessly working on solving tough problems, learning new skills and cultivating new relationships, you’ll be pretty hard to replace. On the other hand, if you merely show up and do your job without challenging yourself and others, you’ll be one of the first people to go when tough times get even tougher, as we all have experienced recently. Essentially, your “replaceability” depends on the value you bring to your company and the market in general.

So how much value do you add to your company? Regardless of your position or job title, does your contribution bring value to your team, its processes and the end-product you sell? Or do you prefer to avoid the “real” challenges of troubleshooting and leadership and instead find yourself focusing on doing the jobs that are easier and less stressful?

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And if your job title does include the word manager or owner, what are you doing to help your team members become more indispensable and valuable in their roles within your company?

In a world that’s ruled by supply and demand, you will always need to supply your company and its industry with the products and services the market truly demands. Just because your products are commodities doesn’t mean you have to be, too. So what are you willing to do to make sure it stays that way? PD

Tom Wall
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