Do you add value?
I recently participated in a conversation with a group of fellow IT professionals, most who are now out of the trenches – managing teams and departments. They all wanted to talk about what everyone else is doing to ensure they will not lose their job in this economic tsunami of budget cuts and layoffs. Although they were mostly concerned with keeping their job, it was nice to see them also express interest in keeping their teams intact as well. Let it be known, I have a lot of respect for these guys. Some I have known for a while and some I have just recently met. Some work at large companies and some work at small companies. They are all bright guys and mean well, but none of them had what I felt were good suggestions on the topic.
Three suggestions got thrown out: work harder, work longer, be more visible. Before chiming in I sat back, smiled, and listened for a bit as these guys went back and forth with their strategy for appearing important. The debates went back and forth about why one of the three things above is better than the other. They all started to agree on being more visible. The reason being more visible was attractive is because it didn’t require them to work harder or work longer, it only required them to give the perception of those things by being in the office more. I really dislike the idea of being measured based on face time for this very reason and will blog about that another day.
I decided it was time to participate so I said, “If it were up to me I’d let you all go!” I was clearly joking, like I said these are bright guys, but we all got a chuckle and I had their attention. My advice was to ADD VALUE. I got a few funny looks before one of the guys said, “Well yeah we already said work harder.” And there is the problem; working harder, working longer, and being more visible does not mean that you are adding value. You could sit in your office 12 hours per day working hard on meaningless stuff but you are not adding value. I’ve seen people who work hard but just can’t work efficiently so it takes them 5x longer to accomplish a task than it should and I do not see that as adding value. Lastly, simply being in the office for the sake of being visible doesn’t add value unless you are being useful during that time.
So I got called to the carpet and was asked how I add value. On a simplified level my primary job responsibility is to make sure things are safe, secure, and humming along. I do this and do it well if I do say so myself. I work closely with the other departments to see what they do, how they do it, and how it can improve. I actively look for and alert the investment team to companies I find interesting and worth looking at. I get called in to help with due diligence on prospective deals. I help early stage companies we have invested in launch from an IT standpoint. I help existing portfolio companies with technology/security issues. The list goes on but I’ve probably rambled long enough. It is all about understanding the business, being proactive, and being willing to help. All of these things equate to working hard and working long hours but the purpose is to add value.
So stop trying to look important and start being important by adding value.
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Tags: add value, be important, keeping your job, proactive, strategy