Are You Relevant?

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There are some simple truths about what makes for a value-added individual. For one, you must be viewed as more than a paper pusher. You must be seen as a contributor. Paper pushers are strictly transactional. They do only what they need to do and no more. They never push the envelope. They just show up to work at a set time and leave at a set time. Whether intentionally or not, paper pushers create the impression that they don’t care about the company.
From Many Parts, One Body, pg. 61.

Who doesn’t have self doubt from time to time? Sometimes the signals just aren’t there. You’re not getting any feedback. No one has reached out to you in a while. You don’t seem to be on any of the big projects. Your work and contribution is not getting any attention. It’s easy to go into a space of wondering. Wondering if what you do matters to anyone: to the team, to your peers or to your company. We have all been there.

Let’s face it: recognizing individuals for their achievements, whatever they may be, is a positive thing. It indicates that even in the most minimal sense, we mean something to someone. Too much time without saying something as simple as, “Hey, you are doing a great job!”–especially when credit is due–goes a long way. Even though small acts of praise, like patting someone on the back or paying them a compliment, may not be commonplace in all work environments, it doesn’t make these acts any less important.

All of us like to feel valued in some way, shape or form. There are things we can do in the workplace that help us stay positively relevant within our organizations. However, it takes effort. It won’t just fall in our lap. But I believe taking action to remain both valued and valuable is worth the effort.

Relevancy at the company level

It is easy to get swallowed up in an organization. Some organizations are so big that they treat you like a number and don’t even know you by name. For personal relevancy, this is not a good thing. This makes it even more important that you are clear on what your “value-added” contribution is to the company. I’m not saying you must do everything within your power to be noticed and recognized by everyone. At the very least, make sure you’re playing a “contributing role” within your organization, and do your best to ensure you are receiving some signals from your organization that shows this to be true. Your sense of self worth in relation to your organization depends on it.

Some healthy questions to ask and get answered:

Relevancy within your team

Do you know the essential part you play within your team? The key questions to ask at the team level are the same as at the company level, but the dynamics are deeper. At the team level, people know you, not only as a professional, but also as a human being. Relevancy at the team level isn’t only about the bottom line: it’s also about you as a team player, and your ability to promote positive team dynamics and relationships. Ask yourself: Are you perceived as someone who pulls your own weight? Do you play nice and get along with others?

Relevancy at the team level boils down to making sure you:

Relevancy among your peers

When I talk about peer relevancy, I am referring specifically to the working relationships that you have across the company within different functions. Do your peers trust and respect you? Are you someone they naturally like to work with and leverage? Do they know what your primary contribution is to the project? Do you have healthy communication with them? Are you seen as a cross-functional team player?

If you answer “yes” to all of those questions, you are most likely viewed as a significant member of the peer network. Conversely, “no” answers could mean you are viewed as a bottleneck to progress at times. No one scores a 100 percent all of the time, but having more than a passing grade is critical if you are to maintain a healthy sense of relevancy among your peers.

Relevancy through your unique gifts and abilities

What is the unique or special contribution that you bring to the table? I’m not talking about your degree or experience here, but your unique talent. What is the thing that separates you from all others in the company? What are you known for? Is it a special ability to deal with people? Is it a sense of overall vision and forward thinking? Is it your ability to be decisive and make the tough call when others tend to hesitate? Or is it your resolute planning ability and your ability to make logical sense out of even the most complex scenarios?

When you are known for more than just your degree and expertise in an organization, your sense of relevancy shoots through the roof. People don’t come to depend on you for just your knowledge base, but your leadership and your perspective. They come to you for your ability to reason and think through things. People who know how to leverage their unique gifts naturally stand out in organizations and are utilized often and in multiple ways.

It’s important to know that successfully performing in all relevancy focus areas does not make you invincible. You must retain perspective. There are no absolute guarantees or fixes. An individual’s relevant world could implode at any time, and without warning. You might be doing everything right but still feel irrelevant due to unforeseen factors and uncontrollable conditions. Regardless, the point is to be as proactive as you can, operate with a sense of urgency, and always strive to promote your relevancy in the workplace. You will be better off for it because of the sense of control and peace you gain for yourself.

Leadership challenge: Determine your top “value-add” and unique talent you bring to the organization and validate it through your peers, with your boss and among your team.

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