How to Become Indispensable

Topic(s): learning, mentoring
Publication: Harvard Business Review (April 2013)
Article: Make Yourself an Expert
Authors: Dorothy Leonard, Gavin Barton and Michelle Barton
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

If you’re early in your career and anything like me, you’re probably eager for advancement and seeking opportunities to gain experience with and proficiency in your intended line of work. Or, for those of you who are seasoned professionals, you may be wondering how you can become indispensable in your company or an expert in your field.

Well, the best way to learn the secrets of success that come with life experience is to find a valued and trusted mentor you’d like to emulate in order to learn as much as possible from a person who has already graduated from the School of Hard Knocks. Fortunately, most people are happy to share their experiences and expertise if you ask, and in my experience, are supremely flattered to be seen as a role model and person of insight.

How do make the most of a mentoring relationship and most effectively reap the benefits it can have on your career? Well, in their most recent article Dorothy Leonard, Gavin Barton and Michelle Barton (2013) explain that it’s through a process they call OPPTY, which stands for: observation, practices, partnering and joint problem solving and taking responsibility.

  • Observing: Watch your mentor carefully and analyze what he or she does.
  • Practice: Find behaviors or tasks your mentor performs that you can take on with his or her guidance and feedback.
  • Partnering and joint problem solving: Work with your mentor to pick apart work-related problems and develop solutions.
  • Taking responsibility: In time you’ll find that you’ve become an expert. Now you can take on some of your mentor’s responsibilities, not to mention bask in the limelight of success.

What do you think is the best way to become indispensable?