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On Becoming an Untouchable

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By Gary Lieberman, Ph.D., providing personal experience as a follow up response to Rod Colon’s ground breaking article Become an Untouchable – NOW!

For the longest time, the term ‘untouchable’ has had a negative connotation. Most often the term describes a person of arrogance who feels they are beyond reproach. Some cultures consider untouchables as having a low societal status, unclean and to be avoided. The meaning changes drastically when you consider it in the context of the modern day workplace. Being an untouchable is someone who truly has achieved job security in a time when arguably most workers admit there is no such thing

In his 2009, New York Times Op-Ed piece entitled, “The New Untouchables,” Thomas L. Friedman said that being average is not what it used to be. Being average is blending into the woodwork. Average tasks can and often are taken over by computers and outsourcing firms. Untouchables constantly reinvent themselves and are above average workers doing above average tasks. There are several simple rules to follow on the road to becoming untouchable.   They are: 

  • Diversify your skill set and do not get caught in a single skill vertical silo. Bridge the gap between different technologies.  Don’t just do networking or desktop support, become skilled in both and then keep adding skills as you grow. Strive to develop skills in multiple disciplines.  For instance study business administration if you are working in technology and vice versa. Most people stay in their comfort zone, they’re either good technically or good managers. Even though it may be difficult and outside of your comfort zone strive to be proficient in both. The more diverse your skills are the more valuable you are to the organization and the more untouchable you become. Untouchables have skill sets that standout and add value to firm’s bottom line.
  • Work scared. Treat every task as if it was your last chance to prove yourself. Put every ounce of effort into everything you do. No matter how small the task is, NEVER miss a deadline without giving your management advanced warning and alternatives that do not hang them out to dry. Once you become known as the ‘go to guy’ who never lets us down, you will be untouchable.
  • Never present a problem to management without also presenting a well thought out solution.  Always be known as the forward thinking solution guy not the problem guy. Problem guys disappear, solution guys become untouchable.
  • Always be a teacher and be willing to share information and train other people. The more of a resource you become, one that everyone looks everyone looks to for advice and guidance, the more untouchable you become. Did you ever hear people say, “I need to touch base with Jim” or “I called Jim and he helped me figure out where the problem was,” or have you heard the boss say, “Check with Jim before you start this task?” You better believe that Jim is untouchable. “For me to know and you to find out” people are not team players. Those people willing to share their knowledge are team players who become untouchable.
  • Stay out of the organizational politics. Make sure you are above the pettiness and avoid associating with the people who are not trusted or respected.  Above all do not join the whiners complaining about what was and is, be all about what could be. Negative energy sucks the air out of a meeting room, so always be positive. A positive attitude, personal integrity, and high standards are keys to becoming untouchable.

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