Chapter 4 - Recognizing Your Leverage
Much earlier in my career, I didn’t know what I had to offer. That limited my freedom.
- I didn’t know what employers wanted.
- I didn’t know what to put on my resume.
- I didn’t know what to ask for.
- I didn’t know what estimates to give.
- I didn’t know how much to charge.
- I didn’t know that I could say NO to my boss.
I didn’t realize what advantages I had, and I didn’t realize that those advantages gave me leverage.
Without a strong mentor, I learned to find my own advantages through trial and error, which is a much SLOWER and more PAINFUL way to learn.
I want you to learn this the easy way and quickly incorporate it into your life. If you do, you will start seeing benefits this week. As you practice and hone your mindset, you will gain more and more freedom.
The leverage you ALREADY possess
Many people that I work with have more leverage than they realize. The first step in being free is recognizing how much leverage you already have.
One of my former colleagues, Johnny*, was a very sharp and capable programmer. Yet he always walked on eggshells at work. He would always say things like, “I’ll get fired if I do that.” And so, wherever he worked, he quickly found himself dissatisfied with the company he worked for. He would blame the company for things that had been in his power all the time. He would work until the dot of 5 p.m. even if it meant screwing around on Facebook instead of working or calling it a day. That’s a not win for anyone. That’s not a win for the company. That’s not a win for him.
I don’t want you to feel the way Johnny felt.
Let’s break down the advantages you already have, today.
What are some forms of leverage that you may already have?
- You have skills that are in demand.
- You have intricate business knowledge.
- You have valuable social connections.
- You have more willingness to embrace conflict.
- You have a unique perspective because of your role.
- You have combinations of skills that others don’t have.
- You have a devil-may-care attitude.
- You have a compelling communication style.
- You have experience in areas that others don’t.
- You have a creative approach to problem solving.
Virtually no matter what your current position is, there are traits you ALREADY have that you are not fully leveraging.
Don’t be afraid to STAND OUT
One of the biggest mistakes you can make at work is trying to blend in with all the other employees. If you do that, you will also be treated like all the other employees.
When you blend in, you aren’t capitalizing on your ADVANTAGES.
If you have a skill that your teammates don’t have, put yourself out there and use it. Speak up and mention your skill. Volunteer to work on projects that use the skills you enjoy.
If you have deep domain knowledge about the systems at your company, you can use that to negotiate for what you want. This domain knowledge can translate to solving bigger, more interesting problems. It can translate into mentoring or managing others. It can translate into starting a new initiative. Your rich domain knowledge is a major asset that other people don’t share. That gives you leverage.
If you have strong connections either inside or outside your company, that gives you social traction to angle for how you want to work. You don’t like how something is done at your company? You can tell a story about how your friend at another company does things differently. Are the ideas you’re expressing shared by other coworkers? You can band together to change things. Social connections give you leverage.
If you have a unique paradigm, that gives you leverage. Perhaps you see some issue at work that you care about passionately, and nobody else does. Maybe nobody is writing unit tests for their code, and you feel that unit tests are critically important. The fact that you SEE something different means that you can influence people around you. You will be perceived as a leader when momentum starts to roll your way, and then your bosses will be coming to you for the solution.
Maybe you don’t have great skills, but you are willing to drive a hard bargain. Just being willing to argue passionately for something repeatedly will often get you results. Persistence is a huge source of leverage.
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”
For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she will not eventually wear me out with her coming!”
I could go on and on about how the various ways that you ALREADY have leverage that you don’t realize. You have a LOT of LEVERAGE.
The first step in liberating yourself from being an office slave is to cultivate an awareness of the leverage you have.
Be aware of your unique advantages.
Know your personal strengths!
You can use those to increase your freedom and autonomy at work.
We’ll go into more depth on HOW you can use this leverage in PRACTICAL ways in upcoming chapters.
But the first step is to Recognize Your Leverage.
Set aside 5 minutes to meditate and reflect.
- Write down all of the advantages you have at work.
- Highlight the ones that you aren’t fully utilizing.
In the last chapter, we looked briefly at what advantages you have. Now, after reading this chapter, you have a much bigger picture of the advantages you have. If you did the previous exercise, then after you finish this one, compare the two and see how much your paradigm has grown.
* Name changed because he’s a dear friend of mine despite being a bit of a coward.