Tech Journal South, February 2009

By Scott Halford

Due to economic conditions, a sort of “Business Darwinism” is taking over in most organizations-survival of the fittest-as excess is trimmed and only the necessary survive. This means companies are making decisions about who will keep the organization afloat during lean times, and now, more than ever before, employees have the ability to secure their own futures. That is, if they are those who are the indispensable, go-to resource their company can’t live without: a shortcut.

It makes good sense to take stock of your worth and influence as a business professional during these scary times, and as you do, take notice of those who are making it and living the lives they want. Chances are they’re all remarkable shortcuts to their internal and external clients … not shortcuts of the easy-way-out variety, shoddy quality or questionable ethics, but rather Shortcuts with a capital “S”: Individuals who are the professionals their company can’t live without.

We Need You!

There is an enormous need for Shortcuts because employees are being asked to do the added work of those laid-off in this recession. Shortcuts are the ones called upon because they were willing, during better times, to work at a few things very passionately and personably.

Consider that more people have access to more information than any other time in history. The astonishing level of information overload, while still needing to act and react with speed, brings about intense worldwide competition and more constantly stressed-out lives as a by-product. It’s more difficult to even be an average competitor.

Enter you – the Shortcut. As one, you: Carve out your only little fiefdom – coddle it, study it, write about it, talk about it and get up the next morning and do it again. You become consistently good and gracious at what you do and others trust you. You are the reliable lawn service; the Grease Monkey down the street; the administrator who predicts her boss’s needs and then exceeds them; the vice president who mentors a team by teaching individuals what she knows and then encourages them to go beyond that point. You are who others instantly think of when they need a particular skill or service or to find a specific piece of valid information in the sea of data. You’re there as a resource and sometimes a reassurance as they wade through the piles of things they need to be effective.

The need for Shortcuts is high and there is a formula that you can follow to help you think about how to be a better Shortcut.

The Shortcut Formula

There are a few simple things to consider in terms of being an invaluable Shortcut. Here’s the first part of the formula. People use Shortcuts most when:

– They don’t have enough time
– They are lacking talent or skill in a needed area
– Their desire to do something is low

Lack of time, talent and/or desire indicates a good opportunity for a Shortcut. Ask if your service or job falls into one of these areas. The other part of the formula is when, as a Shortcut, you make other’s lives:

– Easier, because they don’t have to do the legwork
– Better, because the quality of their life goes up, or they look good to those they wish to impress
– More money, because they make more money

Frame your job, service or product in a way that it addresses this part of the formula and your influence and value go up. Of course, you have to add a big dose of positive attitude and emotional intelligence that make dealing with you such a pleasure. Let’s take a look at the two ingredients of a Shortcut: expertise and emotional intelligence.

Be “The Expert”

The Shortcut understands intuitively what trend-forecaster, John Naisbitt, predicted in the late 1980s about success in the millennium. He said the individuals and organizations that can organize and make useful the proliferation of information will be the most successful and profitable of the 21st Century.

Naisbitt was right-he was talking about being the Shortcut, the expert, the go-to person in his or her own little corner of an industry who can find and distill the right information at the right time to the right people in the right way. These people create the lives they want because they’ve done something the average professional isn’t willing to do: They commit themselves deeply and with fierce focus in a very specialized area. They strive to become experts, no matter the topic area. They essentially become the Google of their business. The first step is to find what you love to do and then research it and practice it so you’re the “household” name where you work.

Be Emotionally Intelligent

Expertise is only a part of the equation; Shortcuts also have high emotional intelligence (EI). EI is the set of attributes that predict a person’s workplace and life success better than IQ and technical expertise, and like IQ, your EI can be measured. But, unlike IQ, you can grow your EI through practice and coaching. Don’t misunderstand; IQ and expertise are necessary to get you in the door, but think about it – the people you work with are about as smart as the next person, so intelligence isn’t the differentiator.

Research in human performance conclusively shows the big difference is in being able to deal well with the day-to-day hassles and adverse events that come your way. Those who don’t cope well usually have bad attitudes and inappropriate approaches to even the simplest requests. There’s nothing worse than a really smart person who makes you feel like an idiot. Shortcuts understand their purpose in life isn’t to show off their knowledge and expertise, but rather to use them to teach others and to create simplicity in other’s lives. In doing so, they use excellent common sense and the social graces that make them magnetic.

All things equal, most people will use a subject matter expert who exhibits excellent emotional intelligence in difficult situations over the creepy expert who blows his top over a simple request for services.

Be a Shortcut. When you are, you’ll build the life you want because you’re giving time and peace of mind back to others so that they can build the life they want. In this economy, that’s the surest bet you can make.

5 Quick Tips to Be a Shortcut:

– Find your area of expertise. It should give you a good deal of passion. Study it. Read at least an article or chapter a day in that area. In 12 months, you’ll be smarter than most about that topic.

– Ask co-workers what they think you’re best at. It may surprise you. Your natural talents may not be apparent to you.

– Find a mentor in your area of expertise and learn as much from them as possible.

– Learn about emotional intelligence (EI). Get your EI measured and then work on getting better at it.

– Daily, do something that makes someone else successful. You will become magnetic and more successful yourself.

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