My friend used to work in a lab. Researchers are peculiar people. They can actually spend long hours at work and really enjoy it. Sometimes they might struggle to socialise with other colleagues as they tend to work independently, with their own deadlines, objectives and projects, but that was not what was happening at my friend’s lab.
The lab was located in a building where other research institutes were also based. In the building there was a cafe run by an exceptional woman who had decided to take on the mission of getting to know the people working around her.
She knew their names, the names of their children, and the work they were doing. While serving a coffee or food there was always a bit of a conversation about how things were going at home and at work. She really cared. People gathered around the cafe spontaneously, and it became a meeting point for everybody in the building. She created a sense of community that benefited the teams that took time together at the cafe to discuss a variety of subjects.
One day the management decided that the cafe should be run more professionally, and hired a company to do the job. People stopped using the cafe as a meeting point and it became a place to grab a coffee and get back to work again.
Being an indispensable pro is not exclusively related to the standards of what you do and the seamless process that you’ve designed: it’s about the extras that you provide when you do what you do.
Indispensable work is done when nobody asks you to do it. It’s the work you do because you see that it’s needed. It’s the work that talks about who you’re choosing to be.
This is something I’ve been thinking about lately: the coffee test.
If your customers will still sit down with you for a coffee even if they don’t need your products or services, even if you aren’t in business any more, just for the sake of enjoying your company, a chat, and the little bit of magic you bring, then you’re very likely doing indispensable work.