Posted by: kevinliebl | February 15, 2010

How can you make yourself Indispensable?

Seth Godin's Linchpin

Seth Godin's Linchpin

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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Responses

  1. Sorry I missed this event, but glad there is a book and Amazon is a click away. There’s nothing like constantly selling your value and positioning yourself as an essential company asset. It’s a subject missing from most colleges and grad schools, where there’s plenty of competition for top grades. They just need to rev students up for the business world, where the competition is for perceived value. Thanks for the snapshot, Kevin.

  2. Kevin –

    I wish I could have been there!

    Making a difference, contributing in a big way, Having an impact that people will remember . . . it all just feels good.

    Look forward to hearing more about it at Satchmo.

  3. In response to:
    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”.

    I know good people have lost great jobs in the past few months. Making yourself indispensible in this economy is a myth.
    Keep your eyes open and read,
    “Who Moved My Cheese” at least once a month.
    Nobody is immune from their job being eliminated, trust me.

    • Stephanie,

      I completely agree. No one is immune. However, the goal is to stack the deck in your favor. There are no “silver bullets” or guarantees, but all things being equal we all need to create the greatest value possible in our current jobs and then build a support network for if/when the inevitable happens. Statistics show that most employees will change jobs (willing or unwilling) every 18 to 36 months. Plan for the inevitable.

      Thanks for the comment.

      – Kevin

  4. Seth Godin certainly does rock your world after you see him! I just ordered Linchpin and can’t wait to dive in.

    I think at this point, we all know someone, or are that someone, who lost a job in this crazy economy. And while I don’t disagree, Kevin, I really think it depends on who is at the top. Is that person going to recognize a “linchpin” or are they concerned about themselves and the status quo? I’ve worked for several company yes men, and as far as I know, they’re still employed and I’m not. I like to ask why and shake it up because I think challenge is good, and I think complacency is the worst thing that can happen to a company. I have obviously worked for those that disagree.

    I just hope the paralyzing economic fear that has overtaken this country goes away so that those that do care, are loyal, and maybe even love their jobs (what a concept!) are recognized. I’ve worked with many who I would consider indispensable and they’ve all joined me on the unemployment line this past year. Let’s hope for that to change very soon.

    • Theresa,

      I agree. Some managers/companies will recognize the value and some won’t. There is no simple answer. However, I believe that if enough people within the company depend on you to accomplish their job, then you become indispensable. If you are able to get your manager to recognize that he/she will fail without you, then they will protect you out of self-preservation.

      The reality is that no one is looking out for any of us, and we all need to take control of our careers. This is a shock to many people. However, when we realize this and put the tools in place to build a personal brand, a business network and continue to improve our skills, then we can stack the deck in our favor. I wish you luck in your job search.

      Thanks for the comment and let me know if I can help.

      Best Regards,

      Kevin


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