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Mental Model

It’s our responsibility to choose the organizations and jobs to which we allocate our time, talent, and treasure. There will come a time when external environmental forces drive the need for a lower-cost operating model with headcount reduction. Or political forces that seek to change the organization. The strength of your value proposition and political power will be tested and compared to others. It’s not personal, it’s business markets operating in the wild. Your job as a strategist is to target your talent where it’s essential to the mission and develop scarcity where you are the only one who can do what you do. You want to be indispensable. Create this leverage – it’s your job and livelihood.


The reality is that in any company or organization, there are must-have roles and others that are less important to delivering the value proposition to customers. Assuming you have worked hard to develop valuable skills, the key to your success will be where you apply those. You must adopt a mindset that is selective and strategic to apply your talent where you are absolutely essential. This will ultimately influence your compensation, power, and options.

Be the only one who can do what you do, and make the fate of those who hire you so entwined with yours that they cannot possibly get rid of you.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (Law 11 – Learn to Keep People Dependent on You)

Necessity rules the world. People rarely act unless compelled to. If you create no need for youself, then you will be done away with at the first opportunity.

The Daily Laws by Robert Greene (February 21 – Create the Need for You)


1 – Insert yourself as an essential link in the value chain.

Evaluate and prioritize business processes to tease out those that are critical to delivering customer value.

Choose work where your skill directly produces the value of the product or service.

Avoid “supporting” roles – this limits your options and will be cut at the first opportunity when things get tough.

Seek to control more steps in the value chain where you offer something unique.

2 – Apply your talent where you are the only one who can do what you do.

Avoid work environments where there is a large pool of similar talent to draw upon.

Pick opportunities where your employer cannot easily find someone else with your particular skill.

Make your skill feel and appear indispensable – communicate your value often.

Delegate work that is a commodity or easily done by others.

Avoid work that can be easily outsourced.

Avoid a role that can be easily reallocated to realize a lower cost or higher value.

Resist taking on work that is not your responsibility to ensure focus on your core value proposition; unless it creates a unique dependency on you.

3 – Create a dynamic of dependence.

Seek roles that are at the center of the collaboration network whereby removing you creates disruption and inefficiency.

Build strong relationships with decision-makers.

Create a strong need for your skills and service.

Choose work assignments that create a unique dependence on you.

Choose to work with people that have a higher need for you than you have for them.

4 – Test the strength of your value proposition.

Evaluate the quality and impact of your work on value-generating processes.

Run a mock situation where you were either fired or let go – assess how easy or difficult it will be for core operations to deliver value.

Seek feedback from leaders and colleagues to improve your work product – see it as a gift.

Evaluate your profile against the top experts in your craft to identify competencies you must strengthen.

Experiment With This

  • Your expertise will be valued differently by organizations depending on the industry and economics of the value proposition. You want a role that is critical to delivering value and not a “support” role. If the person or company that employs my services had to reduce costs, how likely would they cut my position? How can I expand my skillset to control more steps in the value chain?
  • If your role is easily dispensible or you can be replaced quickly, consider transitioning somewhere else in the company to become more essential. What skills do I need to develop that are more valuable and unique to become more essential?
  • Do the research and read the news to learn new skills that are emerging or will be more essential in the near future.
  • Everybody is replaceable in their line of work so planning for the worst and hoping for the best is a smart strategy. How easy or difficult will it be to find my next source of income if one is cut off abruptly? What should I start doing now to manage that risk?


The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (Law 11 – Learn to Keep People Dependent On You)

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – by Greg McKeown