I’ve recently been reading Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable” and seeking to apply it to my work with Worthington Schools.
The premise of the book is that today’s organizational structure in many businesses, and potentially in public schools, is a throwback to the days of factories, with interchangeable parts and interchangeable workers. Basically, this means that if you do your job as you’re told, then you’re easy to replace. Seth Godin wants us to “become indispensable” instead. There are several elements to this. First, we need to make a choice — wake up and stop being a sheep. Second, he wants us to do our work as a gift — as art — because it makes us happier, not just to please our boss. Third, he implores us to triumph over our lizard brain — the part that wants us to conform and avoid dangerous actions that might make us stand out. Fourth, he reminds us that what we start or imagine doesn’t matter — a real linchpin ships products or completes the task.
You might be wondering what a linchpin is? Literally, it is a pin inserted through holes at the end of an axle, to secure a wheel in place. In reference to a human, it is someone who is indispensable or irreplaceable for an organization. When the wheels fall off the wagon, you’re not going anywhere. Linchpins deliver unique creativity, and they understand that their job is to make something happen.
A Linchpin, according to Godin, is an employee that holds a business together. Linchpins are the type of employee or entrepreneur that makes things happen – a “game changer.” Godin states that every business needs at least one, but more would be ideal. The Linchpin spends their time creating, or being an “artist” as Godin explains. By putting emotion and creativity into work, it separates a person from the rest of the 9 to 5′ers who go through the motions and are not a catalyst for positive change.
Here’s a few of the chapters that stuck out to me:
- Becoming the Linchpin – Being good isn’t good enough anymore. Meeting specs, following a manual, or doing something that can be measured can usually be outsourced or automated less expensively. This is the same argument made by others such as Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future . “The linchpin is someone who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen.”
- There Is No Map – This is why there are so few linchpins and why they are so valuable. If it was easy it wouldn’t be valuable. Waiting for instructions is easy. Figuring out for yourself what to do next is hard and it is what allows you to create indispensable value.
- Making the Choice – You either fit in or you stand out. You either defend the status quo or you challenge it. You either make a difference or you disappear into the sea of cogs. The essence of being a linchpin is a choice you make. Most people will not make the hard choice to overcome the anxiety associated with being an indispensable leader and connector.
- The Culture of Connection – “Your personality and attitude are more important than the actual work product you create, because indispensable work is work that is connected to others.” This is a very short chapter about the power of social intelligence.
In applying this book to Worthington Schools we spoke with our school principals about their work and becoming the “Linchpins” in our organization. Now more than ever we need people who can “walk into chaos and create order, invent, connect, create and make things happen.” There is no playbook for implementing Common Core Standards, implementing teacher evaluations with student growth measures, making certain that all student sub-groups grow and achieve, and keeping up with the shifts in technology. Now more than ever we need “Linchpins” to keep us moving forward and to ship product.