If you're great at your job, it means you're replaceable, and that's a good thing. You should strive to be replaceable; it's how an organization grows. This may seem counterintuitive, but let me explain.
There's a negative perception around what it means to be "replaceable" in the workplace -- it might sound like you don't have job security, or that you're leaving the company -- however, the fact is that being replaceable means emphasizing learning and growth, and is the key to fostering a positive work culture with a healthy path for career progression and innovation.
In an ideal business world, we're operating in an environment where we, and our colleagues, are constantly growing and receive opportunities to learn new skills to prepare for the next step in our careers. In this sense, the most successful leaders are ensuring they are replaceable.
This doesn't mean they're no longer useful, it means they fully utilize and support their employees to complete initiatives at the highest quality and enable their future career growth. The better we are at our jobs, the more important it is to have someone even better than us. People with world class experience who can do parts of your job better than you allow you to free up some of your time that could be spent developing creative ideas, innovative solutions and working towards the next way to make greater impact for your company.
Managing your company, office or even just one direct report in this manner has many benefits and produces an even greater end product by leveraging strengths. Whether a small or large company, a director or vice president, the following tips will help you foster this kind of positive work culture focused on growth, one where you are replaceable.
1. Encourage two-way communication.
While the need to communicate with employees isn't a new idea, more leaders need to communicate with the intent to learn. Who is a great sales manager? Who has extensive product building knowledge or can capture company tone best? Part of matching individuals with the right projects is knowing your employees' strengths and weaknesses. Keep those lines of communication open; reach out to see what they're loving or good at and make yourself available to hear where they'd like to grow. Often people feel they have to "collect" more responsibility to be recognized, but that can make them more stressed and less effective.
The idea is to create an organization where intelligent, forward-thinking people want to work, find out who excels where, and shift additional responsibilities onto their plate to give them opportunities to grow, which in the end, benefits both leaders and employees. In creating these shifts, it often opens space to introduce additional people to the team with specific expertise.
2. Check your ego at the door.
If you're in a position of power at a company, there's one thing that needs to be checked at the office door: ego. Admitting that someone else may perform your role better than you can be difficult, but acknowledging this goes a long way. If you're constantly pushing that you're the most qualified person to take on every task, making sure no one else can do your job, you're stunting your own growth and that of your colleagues.
Learn to shed the responsibilities that you've been collecting to build your own profile. Replace yourself to the point where you can deliver what you're best at and keep learning and contributing, rather than slowing down those around you. Being transparent about your abilities and company needs, while giving someone with the right knowledge the chance to excel frees up time for your own professional development. This opportunity to explore and find out where else you could make a difference as a leader is invaluable.
3. Make proactive growth a priority
While employee growth is a top priority, the best leaders know their own professional evolution is extremely important. To be an effective leader you have to recognize that there's always room for improvement. Leaders shouldn't allow themselves to get complacent, but rather, evolve with the growing business and inevitable challenges that come with innovation. Constantly ask yourself what you need to learn, how you can improve and what comes next - in a sense, you should be growing yourself out of your current role every six to twelve months by building upon your responsibilities and setting new goals. Otherwise, your company environment may not be effectively challenging enough.
The idea that you should be replaceable in the workplace is often negatively misinterpreted, but making sure you are replaceable actually promotes personal and team growth, while helping you become a stronger leader. The best thing you can do is let go of where you are and embrace where you're going.