I saw Seth Godin speak this past week. He was promoting his new book “Linchpin”. The basic premise behind the book is that there used to be two categories of teams in the workplace – management and labor. His argument is that a new category has emerged – the “linchpin”. These new people invent things, lead teams (regardless of their title), connect people, create movements and essentially “make things happen”. They are creative and often figure out how to move the company forward when there is no playbook. They are essential elements in the larger organization. Without them, the company would fail. They are, in a word, indispensable.
If you have seen Seth Godin speak, you know that he is an entertaining and charismatic speaker. His books and presentations are both thought provoking and motivating. You leave thinking about the world differently. This past week, I have been thinking about the work environment differently. In a difficult economy, companies typically downsize (or the more politically correct term – “right-size”). When the company decides to eliminate positions, who will be on the list? Will it be the ones who follow all the rules and go unseen in the corporate hallways, or will it be the ones who sometimes break the rules, but are remembered for their contributions?
Over the past year, we have all heard the comment, “I did everything the company asked me to do. I was the model employee and they still terminated my job.” This is too common of a problem today. We all know that there is very little loyalty on either side of the table. Employees are not loyal to companies, and companies are not loyal to employees — at least when compared to the corporate world of our parents.
I think that Seth Godin’s premise is correct. We all need to figure out ways to become the Linchpins who are indispensable in a company. Do you think that the barista at Starbucks who sells more coffee than any other employee in the city because she knows every customer’s name is going to be terminated? Do you think the receptionist who answers the phone with such passion and enthusiasm that everyone who calls the company wonders what makes the organization such a great place to work is going to be let go? Will the company eliminate the position of the product manager who, despite his title, has become the product evangelist who everyone turns to for approval and guidance? I believe the answer is “no”.
What do these people have in common? They have realized that they are essential to the company and that they can be brilliant in their role – regardless of what their title is. They thrive at their job because they are making a difference in the company, and that difference makes them irreplaceable.
Is your job a routine, mundane task that kills any real creativity? Figure out a way to separate yourself from others who are doing the same task. Think about how you are perceived by others. What do you want your personal brand to be? Identify your own unique contribution that will make you more than just an employee. Find those characteristics that will make you an indispensable member of the larger company.
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