If someone were to evaluate your job performance tomorrow, what would they say? Would their review have more to reflect about you than just the numbers? It might be difficult to guess, not because you don’t do great work, but because your work is about way more than it used to be.
Your job is no longer just about you and the work you do alone—it’s also increasingly about how well you manage work with colleagues up, down, and sideways in the chain of command. Everyone is responsible for serving their clients, their bosses, and an endless number of “internal customers” at work.
The collaboration revolution has transformed how we work together. It’s not going away. And in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s making everything that much more complicated.
I wrote my latest book—“The Art of Being Indispensable at Work: Win Influence, Beat Overcommitment, and Get the Right Things Done”—to help people navigate the difficult new realities of the high-collaboration workplace. I never intended it to be a guidebook for navigating job security in a post-pandemic world. I never could have imagined it! But what I’m hearing from my own clients every day is that the practices in this book are helping them to succeed even in the midst of such enormous uncertainty and change.
To be clear, nothing I have written about speaks specifically to the business challenges of COVID-19: social distancing, furloughs, or even remote work. But what it does speak to are the essential elements of how to conduct oneself in the middle of a crisis. It’s about how to take control and ownership of the only thing you can take control and ownership of—you—while simultaneously dealing with so many factors outside of your control.
Now this doesn’t mean you should isolate yourself from your colleagues in an effort to regain control and focus. (The only isolation you should be practicing is that recommended by CDC!) Rather, the key to becoming truly indispensable—a go-to person in your workplace—is adopting a service mindset. And it’s more important now than ever.
You cannot control what others want from you, need from you, or ask of you. No matter how much you may try to push them away, the reality is their own work requires collaboration, too. If one person decides he or she isn’t going to pitch in, everyone on the team suffers. That’s especially true now that so many of us are working remotely, with limited support and resources.
Of course, the tricky balance here is to resist succumbing to burnout, or what I would call “overcommitment syndrome.” You don’t want to let anybody down. But remember, if you’re constantly juggling, eventually you’ll drop the ball. Serving others is about being honest about your limits, whether those limits are on your time or ability. Be honest. Strategize and prioritize.
So ask yourself how you can truly serve your “internal customers” and produce outstanding results together—without overcommitting. That way, the next time you inevitably need something from them, they’ll be much more likely to help you in ways that matter.
Genuine connection is the key. In a post-pandemic world, others will be our anchors. Relationships are a form of security that can withstand even the direst of external circumstances. So be a go-to person. Build up your network of go-to people upon whom you can rely. Invest in your relationships with others, with intention. That’s what will create the next upward spiral of success for all of us.
Bruce Tulgan is the best-selling author of “It’s Okay to Be the Boss” and the CEO of RainmakerThinking, the management research, consulting, and training firm he founded in 1993. All of his work is based on 27 years of intensive workplace interviews and has been featured in thousands of news stories around the world. His newest book, “The Art of Being Indispensable at Work: Win Influence, Beat Overcommitment, and Get the Right Things Done,” is available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all major booksellers on July 21, 2020 from Harvard Business Review Press. You can follow Bruce on Twitter @BruceTulgan or visit his Website at: rainmakerthinking.com.