What do smart employees do?
In 1985, Steve Jobs was pushed out of his job at the company he co-created. But he kept doing his best work and went on to create NeXT. As a result of his art and best work, he was brought back to Apple in 1987 when the company almost hit rock bottom.
Similarly, Michael Jordan retired in 1993 after winning three NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls. Soon after he left, the team started struggling to make it to the playoffs. MJ returned to the Bulls in 1995 and used his best work to lead the team to three more championships, from 1996 to 1998.
So what’s my point?
If you are a smart employee, your job, or your job title is replaceable but you and your best work should not be. How come? Let me lift the veil for you.
If you are an average employee that does average work, management can use your position to balance the budget at any time. However, people in leadership think twice before they let smart employees — linchpins— go. Why? Smart employees make art.
What do I mean by art?
What do I mean by art? I’ll explain.
To quote Seth Godin, the author of Purple Cow: Transform your Business by Being Remarkable, “ Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.”
In other words, smart employees are known for their best work, for being excellent at what they do—and for doing work worth talking about (remarkable work).
The trick is, doing average work and being married to a job title is risky because it’s what almost everyone does. Like Seth Godin argued, “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”
Like I said earlier, both Steve Jobs and Michael Jordan have focused on making their best work. I know I am not your Continuous Improvement (CI) Coach, but allow me to ask you this: “What do you focus on or what type of art do you make?”
Here’s the brutal truth: you can take your work— your skills, your art and your craft—wherever you want to. But your job belongs to your employer.
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