I was chatting with one of our key employees today. She indicated she was struggling with what she perceived to be a conflict of statements I have made to our company. On one hand, I tell our folks we want to hire the best, most capable people we can, and on the other hand I have said that any of us can get run over by a truck and the company will still sustain itself. She asked, “Aren’t those conflicting messages?”
As I thought about how to respond, I believe the best way to understand not only my comments, but also the reality of how the world of business works, is to understand the distinction between being Irreplaceable versus being Invaluable.
If we hire top-notch people, provide the right culture, and place them in positions of highest and best use, our expectation is that they will become invaluable. In terms of their personal and professional growth and contributions…and their ability to add over-and-above value to their teammates, we would have a difficult time without them.
At the same time, no one is irreplaceable — and that includes the CEO! Any time I sense that someone begins to let their ego get out-of-hand and begins to think of themselves as irreplaceable, I ask them to humor me. I grab a glass of water and ask them to insert and remove their finger in the glass. After doing so, we discuss together whether either of us can definitively determine whether they had their finger in the glass by only examining the glass and water.
Apple rocks on without Steve Jobs; Google will go on without Marissa Mayer; your company will go on without you, too. So, focus on becoming Invaluable – you and everyone associated with you will benefit in countless ways.