Rosie Heckes (Milne) – 12/03/2020
Before starting a new job, I read Seth Godin’s book, ‘Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?’ It was the perfect timing for me to read a book such as this as one of the reasons I moved on from my previous job was that I wasn’t feeling like I could bring extra value to my role. This book gave me the motivation and enthusiasm that I needed for starting a new job, and also helped me to refine attitudes and techniques in teaching that I had let slip a little since teaching in Australia.
Below is a brief summary of the book, its chapters and its messages, through my perspective.
You do not need to be a teacher to get something out of this, you don’t even need to have a job to get something out of this. The message is, do what you do with passion, find the niche that you can carve out in order to get enjoyment out of what you do and to demonstrate to the important people that you are irreplaceable, and that this attitude is one that everyone could and should adopt.
What is a linchpin?
Seth Godin’s definition is:
“Someone who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who makes things happen and invents new ways of doing things.”
Why become a linchpin? When you bring value to your work, you not only get more enjoyment out of it, and will notice that others begin to follow in your way, you will also show your boss or your boss’s boss how important you are, leading to more opportunities and growth.
The history of the work world, and perhaps through our grandparents’ perspectives, is that they were taught to follow rules, to do small tasks really well and to get good scores. This prepared them for a career of following rules, completing small tasks and ticking the boxes.
And if they didn’t, they were easily replaced.
This visual of a hierarchy of value can demonstrate how values have changed over time and which skills are most important for our future workers to master.
Lifting’s easy, selling’s hard. ‘Connect’ and ‘create’ are people-based. Training on how to do this is not typically done in schools.
This book argues that the workforce used to be defined as either management or labour but there’s now a third team, the linchpins.
A linchpin is an indispensable employee. A person who’s worth finding and keeping. Someone who creates a following, a group of people who want to do the same thing, or simply to support and follow the linchpin. Perhaps that linchpin inspires others to want to be indispensable too.
That leads us to what is one of Seth Godin’s mantras:
People like us, do things like this.
The above phrase needs its own essay, however the simple message is that if there’s no other reason to put in the work and time and effort and love to become a linchpin, then do it because it’s what you want to do. Do that, and sure enough, there’ll be others who agree and follow or support. Why? Because you have done something that has represented their own thoughts and feelings. They want to be associated with what you’re doing because they’re that kind of person. Because people like us, do things like that.
What does a linchpin look like in your company/work/project?
What can get in the way of that?
How could you be more valuable when doing your work?
How do you spot a teacher who is a linchpin?
Those who connect and create are the ones who stand out.
Becoming a Linchpin:
You’re already doing it when you seek out interesting books, read articles, listen to podcasts, find professional development. Not because you’re required to, but because you want to improve.
Well, that’s up to you and your work and what you want to see changed. The way is not always clear, but the linchpin finds one anyway. Accept there’s no map, and make one. You have to bring your thoughts, opinions and passions into the work you do.
Some clarity can be found when we use different words – Your job can be defined as the instructions and tasks assigned to you. But your work is the passion, insight and humanity you bring to your job in order to make a personal difference.
Valuable work is work that connects to other people. This feels typically true as an educator. How do you connect to other people?
In a changing world, we need to be linchpins to stand out and be worth finding and keeping. As educators, we need to create linchpins who will be ready to become an indispensable part of our society. Activities at school, rigid routines and games which ask children to follow along mindlessly are not doing our students any favours. Critical thinking and taking initiative are skills of great importance to developing linchpins,
“We need original thinkers, provocateurs, and people who care.”
If you have a job where you are always told what to do next, you cannot lead. As educators, we need to teach children how to work without a map, how to solve interesting problems and how to lead.
You as a Linchpin:
“But that’s not my thing/I’m not ready/I’m only new/There are others more worthy than me/I don’t know how.”
Being a linchpin doesn’t mean ignoring all the possible thoughts listed above. Hear them, address them quickly, then move on. That’s what a linchpin would do.
Of course you will experience resistance, sometimes most of all from yourself. Read the below quote from the book and see if it resonates with you.
“When you were a kid, beautiful art – questions, curiosity, and spontaneity- poured out of you. The resistance was only starting to figure out how to shout out the art coming from the rest of your brain. Then, thanks to disorganised hazing by friends, raised eyebrows from the family and well-meaning, well-organised but toxic rules at school, the resistance gained in strength.”
Everyone experiences those thoughts from time to time, and they may protect you sometimes in the short-term, from disappointment or anxiety, but in the long-term, they’ll hold you back from bringing value where you could, taking the next step in your career, or building a strong reputation.
Being ‘good with people’ is an art that linchpins often master. We need to model it in our lives and teach it to our children. Be more than your resume, be your reputation. Be generous with your time and give the gifts you can without expecting anything back.
Where does the linchpin fit?:
The below diagram explains where a Linchpin sits on a scale. It is directly from the book.
Bureaucrats – Passionless rule-follower, clerk at the post office
Zealots – The record industry’s campaign to sue people who illegally download music
Whiner – No passion but extremely attached to their worldview. Newspaper Industry members
Linchpin – Enlightened enough to see the world as it is, yet can still bring passion to the job. No time for whining or litigation, stays focused on projects that are important and likely to have a positive outcome.
When you read it like this, it’s clear which person brings the most value to work.
Take aways / Ending:
Becoming a Linchpin:
- Become an expert, become irreplaceable, make a map
- Do your work with your feelings. Do your work with passion. Be generous.
- Practise interaction – every co-worker, every client or customer. Take the opportunity to connect with them
- Your duties shouldn’t be easy to list. Bring extra value, bring your personal touch.
- Fit in, or stand out. Transfer your passion to your work. Don’t wait for work that seems to fit your passion.
Seek discomfort, do what you don’t usually do. Try and fail, rather than not trying at all. You can either fit in or stand out. Not both.
Transfer your passion to your job, don’t wait for a job that appears to fit your passion.