How to be a Linchpin (even if you own the business)

I’d put off buying Linchpin by Seth Godin because I’d thought it was all about being indispensable at your job… and being a small business owner, I assumed it wasn’t going to be as relevant to me.  I was wrong.

So, I eventually clicked on one of those Facebook ads offering me a free download of ‘Linchpin.’ I’m pleased I did & thank you to Audible.com for making the offer.  (And thanks for proving that people actually do click on Facebook ads – I wasn’t entirely convinced before!)

Anyway, I’ve been listening to Linchpin as an audiobook on my iPhone.  It’s a great way to take in a book especially during times you wouldn’t normally be able to read – like driving!

by Seth Godin

The snapshot: a Linchpin is a very hard to replace person who loves what they do so much that they view it as art – art  that creates change in someone else’s life.  Linchpins thrive on giving their ‘art’ as gifts to others. It doesn’t matter if you’re a barista serving customers coffee with a smile because you brighten someone’s day or Steve Jobs changing people’s lives with an iPad.  If you love what you do and it creates change — it is an art and you are linchpin.

In a world where automation and outsourcing are making things so cheap you cannot compete on price alone, the answer is to be a linchpin and to hire linchpins.  In fact 37signals – who we are big fans of at Bluewire – only hire linchpins, which I like.

So what’s the opposite of a linchpin? Someone who is totally obedient, follows the rules and does what they’re told.  Pretty much too bullied, afraid or brainwashed to think and act for themself.

The problem with this is that you are not contributing anything of value. No gifts, no art.  And if what you are doing is not remarkable you can (and will) be easily replaced by someone even cheaper and more obedient.   This isn’t a pleasant thought.

Godin argues you deserve more.  You need to bring passion & art to your work, so that you derive joy from it and you become a linchpin. A linchpin that cannot be replaced & that other people cannot live without because you add so much value to their lives.

What’s important? ‘Shipping’ your work!  Seth uses the term ‘ship’ to mean get it done , executed or implemented- eg. delivering the project, hitting send, publishing your blog post, giving the presentation, launching the book etc. Shipping your work is the most important part of being a linchpin.  The measure of a linchpin is how many people you can create change with — so if your work isn’t shipped, it’s wasted.

What’s changed? The world used to reward obedience – in fact it paid very well to follow the rules & be a cog in the system.  In fact for the last 100 years kindergarten, school, university & work has drilled obedience & rule following  into our heads – ‘study hard, do what you’re told & the system will take care of you’.  And it worked for a century but now it has changed – look no further than the Internet which makes automation & outsourcing a cinch.  It means most people have become dispensable.

If what you offer is a commodity, companies will take the cheaper alternative if one exists.  Yet as people we want value, an experience, to smile, to connect, our day brightened or our life made easier — and cheaper, more generic and more bland seldom delivers this.  Linchpins deliver this. And this is why it is valuable to be a linchpin and to hire linchpins.

Take home messages :
#1 as a business owner: Organisations need linchpins who ‘draw the map’ as opposed to cogs who ‘follow the map.’  Map followers can be replaced and outsourced, cheaply. As a business owner there is no ‘drawn map’ to follow so I am always looking for linchpins to help draw the map.

#2 as an individual: A critical requirement for a being a linchpin is being able to ‘ship’ your art.  Therefore in my specific situation, a half written ebook sitting on my hard drive isn’t read by anyone and my gift is wasted. I must ‘ship’ my ebook or I’m not a linchpin.

#3 as a business: As a business, Bluewire Media needs to ‘deliver its art’ as gifts so that it creates change in others.  If we can do this, then Seth Godin would argue we are on the right path to being indispensable!

Have you read Linchpin?  What do you think about Seth’s view of our world?

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