One of the accusations of our millennial generation is that we aren’t teachable and we think we know it all. Whether that’s a fair accusation or not is a topic for another time, but we can all probably agree that it’s important to not think we know it all. An admirable trait for any person is teachability and a willingness to learn. More than that, though, a willingness to learn will make you irreplaceable.
When you’re in your twenties and beginning your career, one of the biggest question marks is how do I make an impact on my team? It’s easy to see the seasoned vets contributing to the team with their countless experiences, numerous relationships and wealth of knowledge, but how can you, the newbie, contribute?
If you make yourself the resident learner, you’ll find all of the ways you can contribute right here and now. The learner of the team is constantly finding ways to jump in and help. Being new, you might not know what you’re jumping into, but that’s why you’re the learner. You’ll pick it up along the way, and you’ll acquire a new skill. Soon enough, you’ll have a toolbelt full of new skills and an ability to fill the gaps on your team. It’s not your primary role, but being able to jump in and learn makes you on your way to being irreplaceable.
However, becoming irreplaceable gains traction in the relationships you build while diving in to fill the gaps. Everyone on your team has a defined role, as do you, but there are always the times when things get overwhelming. You know the feeling when you’re completely swamped and overwhelmed. It feels like you’re drowning in a sea of constant requests and to-do’s, and all you need is someone to throw you a life preserver. When you’re learning new skills and becoming more well-rounded, you can be that life preserver for your teammates and even your boss.
The relationships on your team and trust you build are the true keys to being irreplaceable.
Trust is only earned by giving your teammates a reason to trust you. One of the best ways to earn trust is by proving to your teammates that you’re there for them and not just willing but also able to support them.
Being teachable isn’t a concept that’s new, though. Throughout history, great leaders and thinkers have recognized the value of constantly learning. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious,” and he’s the household name of genius.
I recently read a biography of Winston Church by Geoffrey Best, and Best talks about Churchill’s early career in government before he was the Prime Minister, the great orator or the British political powerhouse that fearlessly led a nation through the Blitz and to success in World War II. Churchill held office in every area of the government and is described by Best as “one of the most able and versatile men in government.” What that meant for Churchill as he ascended to the top position in the land was a complete understanding of the workings of his “team,” the British government, and an ability to understand what it took for individuals to hold those offices and operate a country through all of the offices, cabinets and commissions. Churchill was constantly learning which lead to him being one of the best Prime Ministers that Great Britain has ever seen. “The century’s great Englishman” remained teachable and found great success because of it.
Long story short, jump in and learn new skills to make your skill set tool belt well-stocked. The real magic happens in the relationships and trust you build by utilizing that skill set. All of that stems from being a learner, though, and learning isn’t something you can just turn on and off.
Learning is a muscle that you need to exercise.
Learning can start with a simple Google search of something that interests you. Consider that your pre-workout stretching, and then graduate to some YouTube tutorials, new books you can read or even asking someone to teach you a new skill. Exercising the learner muscle isn’t difficult, it’s just a commitment that you have to make.
So today, make the commitment and start applying your learner mentality to work. Soon enough, you’ll be the go-to person on your team and your co-workers and boss won’t be able to imagine the team without you.