Hey Boss: I'm Not Replaceable

“Everyone is replaceable.” I once worked with a VP of Sales who would say this to his employees as a warning. It was his BIG stick. His words stuck with me for a few reasons. In just three belittling words he consistently chipped away at the morale of his team and made them feel a little less human. I also saw it as a sign of leadership gone seriously awry.

It can happen to any leader: Power and position can go to your head if you are not careful.

Every leader has a responsibility to keep their ego in check. They can also achieve more themselves if they keep in mind that respect is the gateway to team greatness. Maybe it was my Berkeley education, but there is nothing more fundamental to me than behaving with integrity.

But when the ego takes over, it can do funny things to your perception. You start to see yourself as more important than others — and that is never good.

If this is how you feel about your team — that they are all replaceable — hear this: You need your team much more than they will ever need you.

When I consider our team at Aha! I think about how each person is unique, and each one fills an important role. If you think about your own team in this way, you will hopefully realize that you will never find that same combination of talent, know-how, and character as the people you have right now on your team — try as you may.

So, if you want to be a better leader, you must stop seeing them as replaceable and start recognizing the value and potential of each person on your team, or you will lose them to someone who does.

If you can take this truth to heart, it can fundamentally transform your workplace. You will see:

Happier people
When you start seeing your team as valuable, you will treat them with more care — and notice a more energetic workplace. People who feel valued will be more excited to come to work each day. You will also notice fewer people heading for the exits (or trying to leave for a more rewarding job.)

Can-do attitudes
People want to feel that they are needed and that they have an important role to play. So once you start showing your appreciation and giving them your vote of confidence for the work they are contributing, you will help to shore up their own confidence. You will also see more autonomy from your team.

Vibrant dialogue
When the members of your team are no longer afraid to speak their minds and realize they will actually be heard, they will freely share ideas and actively contribute to conversations. The result: Livelier discussions and more diversity of opinions, and fresh new insights from team members who were previously quietly observing your behavior.

More teamwork
If you start treating each person with newfound respect and recognize each person’s contribution, they will no longer have to worry about competing against each other to earn your favor. They will support each other, cheer each other on, and work together as more of a cohesive team.

Increased effort
People work harder when there are clear goals, a framework for success, and support for when they stumble. Treat your team with dignity and they will want to work harder to deliver against your goals. And they will no longer feel as if they are running in place in their careers; instead, they will feel that they have a purpose and can look forward to a better future with the company.

Do not fool yourself — the members of your team are not replaceable. And the good news is that if you respect them, neither are you.

Remember — you are only as good as the team that you work with. So instead of thinking about what you want, focus on helping your team become happier and more engaged with the work they do. Recognize them for their individual accomplishments and their success as a team. Consider how you can build them up so they can be their best.

If you can learn this tough leadership lesson of humility, then you can start being a leader worthy of your team.

Has anyone ever told you that you were replaceable?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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  1. JJ

    I remember when I graduated university in 2013 and the first job I got was working for this company doing audio typing. Me and a lot of other agency staff members were in the induction and was told this by our manager and the HR sycophant backing her up on our first day. Needless to say I wasn’t too bothered when they didn’t want me back after a week. Their attitude was snotty and downright condescending and while it maybe true it’s still a crappy thing to say to your employees whether they’re full-time/part-time or agency staff.


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