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I’ve come to the realization that it should be a goal of any business leader to make themselves replaceable. Now before you’re ego convinces you to stop reading this madness, hear me out.
I know what you’re thinking…the business could never survive without you because you are indispensable, needed, and the most unique snowflake to ever grace the Leather Men's Salvatore Ferragamo Textured Brown Salvatore Bifold Light Ferragamo Wallet Uber for Xspace. At the end of the day who does that serve and who does it hurt? The answer is no one and everyone, respectively. If a companies sustainability depends on you, that makes you a bottleneck. You officially become a liability to any and all hope of progress. Furthermore, as a now indispensable asset, the pressure it on because if you’re unavailable or you mess up, the buck stops with you. My real estate developer in college use to say, “Don’t be irreplaceable, if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.” Now whether that promotion means becoming a Vice President on the corporate ladder, or exiting your company for millions, you give up all upward mobility once you become “irreplaceable.”
Now from a practical standpoint you can never fully be replaced, because you always have something unique to offer but setting that as your goal serves as a really clear guiding light as to how you spend your time, where you invest time and money, and what decisions you make for your future. The problem with most people is that they don’t get to let their unique gifts shine through because they are so busy doing all of the things that people need them for (or at least that they believe people need them for) and they never get the time to do what they are best at. People hold onto the most mundane activities as if searching for flights on Kayak was a phd level skillset. By definition if it can be done by someone else or by something else (an automation of some sort) than it is not your unique ability and therefore doing it does not make you more valuable to your team, it has the opposite effect. You want to be in a situation where your company can continue to grow without you. Maybe it won’t grow at the same rate but it should grow nonetheless. Most people are setup in a way that without them, their companies are like this scene from ghostbusters…
So how can you go about making yourself more replaceable? Start with our old friend, Optimize, Automate, Outsource. Start looking at what you actually do on a daily basis. If you can optimize a process, you’ll likely be able to automate it, and then stop doing it entirely as your delegate it. Any process that can be documented is not something that is unique to you. At the end of the day, the greatest value you can bring to your organization is your ideas, as long as you can effectively communicate them to empowered, well equipped people who can act upon them.