“Pick me. Choose me. Love me.”
— Meredith Grey to Derek Shepherd in Grey’s Anatomy
We all share a basic human desire: Like Meredith Grey, we want to be needed, and we want to be loved for who we are. (For those who haven’t followed Grey’s Anatomy, Meredith would eventually become Derek’s wife.)
We like being missed when we step out of a room. To be needed by other people is to feel worthy and important. It’s affirming, for we feel our presence counts and is meaningful to others. We are social animals who thrive when we are with more of our own, pleasing them, functioning well within their company, and being truly useful to them. The good life is not a solo proposition! We want to add our value wherever we are, and we want to embody an essential quality that others will recognize in us.
Sounds good so far. You could even say it sounds like a very worthy goal.
“I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me
I’ll shine up the old brown shoes, put on a brand-new shirt.
I’ll get home early from work if you say that you love me.”
— song lyrics, I Want You To Want Me, Cheap Trick
We have another word for this at work, a word that has some negative connotations to it: Indispensability. The person who is indispensable, is quite the beast!
On the one hand, we all work toward being indispensable — at being really, really good at what we do. Running counter to this however, is the commonly held belief that no one should actually arrive on that beastly pedestal, and sit there. We believe the Indispensable Beast should not reside in any workplace, for if so, it’s a sign that the business itself isn’t self-sustaining or as healthy as it could be: Dependency must mean that work delivery is hit-and-miss (and thus service is inconsistent), teaming is dysfunctional, good succession plans are lacking, and therefore, the business is subject to unreliability and weakness.
We think of singular strength as imbalance, and not as the personal signature it can be. We consider that strong outlier to be a kind of antibiotic workplace symptom: Surely, for there to be indispensability of any kind, there must be some connected dependability to make it so, and that can’t be good, right?
Fear trumps admiration: We fear indispensability because we fear the weakness of human failings. We’re certain the Indispensable Beast will falter or leave us, and be our single point of failure one day, with no back-up plan to stop its inevitable tumble and fall from grace. We’ll fall too, and we’ll fall hard.
Be honest: Are you the Indispensable Beast?
HA‘AHA‘A, the value of humility, can really help us sort out this unsettling state of affairs. We coach ourselves in practicing more admirable and beneficial behaviors as we shed any beastly tendencies. To leverage HA‘AHA‘A well, high achievers must:
1. Be more Generous:
Make room for others to share in the credits of achieved successes. Be the champion of your entire team.
2. Delegate Better:
In the process, give others the opportunity to grow, and assume more responsibility. Step into the role of partner and coach, and not star.
3. Convert Busyness to Accomplishment:
Get things done, and then move on. Don’t dwell within what is over and done with; resist any urge to rest on your laurels.
4. Embrace Change:
Then model it; “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be a trend-setter with a shining new example.
5. Learn to Lead:
Learn to inspire, shape and better develop ideas, and possibly create a new vision.
These are essentially five different ways we are trading up from raw ambition, using humility to help us become better workplace champions. We use our own talents simultaneous to harnessing other strengths within our workplace culture.
Wanting to feel needed is very natural, very human. So be needed in better ways, primarily as the self-managing partner and leader you can be, championing the efforts of your entire team.
We feel beastly when we feel boxed in.
Being a star is not as shiny-good as it can appear to be. There’s this funny thing about achieving indispensability, no matter how pretty you try to paint it: The success we feel in the beginning will shackle us — and very quickly. We feel the chains almost immediately, and find we need to break free.
Conversely, HA‘AHA‘A will also prove to be better for our own individual growth. In making room for others to shine and be needed, we make space for ourselves too, the space to tackle other progression; new learning, new relationships, new accomplishments. We create a positive expectancy of new possibilities, and we grow into them, finding our true sweet spot.
When we achieve the 5 HA‘AHA‘A trade-ups covered above, we ‘rise like cream to the top’ and we find that being indispensable was a worthy goal all along, as one focused on our self-development within HO‘OHANA. We have qualified our good work with humility, becoming essential to a healthy workplace culture of collaborative effort.
Over to you….
Have you ever found yourself in that sticky trap of indispensability? Many of us have! How did you get out of it, or convert your workplace practices? What was your breakthrough in trading up, or did you decide to just walk away? How can we learn from your story?
From Managing with Aloha (Chapter 12 preamble):
Ha‘aha‘a. Have humility.
Ha‘aha‘a teaches us to groom our own character with humility in respect for others. There is nothing noble in being superior to someone else; true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.
Ha‘aha‘a helps us understand that no individual can satisfy every need. All in the ‘Ohana are needed. All are to be respected and supported for the talent and uniqueness they offer.
Be humble, be modest, and open your thoughts. This is Ha‘aha‘a.
Learn more about this value on its dedicated page: HA‘AHA‘A