According to Seth Godin, Linchpins are those indispensable geniuses who stand out from the crowd by taking on the essential jobs that would otherwise languish in a pit of neglect under the limpid banner of “but that’s not my job.” In his latest book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Mr. Godin informs us that just showing up is no longer enough. We must be remarkable in order to succeed.
We don’t have to have some cosmic endowment, extreme talent, or off-the-charts intelligence to be Linchpins. The formula is straightforward. It can be applied by all. In order to be a Linchpin, make the choice to:
- Be remarkable and generous
- Create art
- Make Judgment calls
- Connect people and ideas
Just saying this to people is a lot like holding a plant by its stem dangling the roots in midair and yelling “Grow!” Fertile soil, plenty of water and some sunshine would certainly increase the plant’s odds of complying with the command. In addition to the courage and desire to make good things happen, Godin tells us that Linchpins need a fertile environment fortified with freedom, responsibility and respect.
If these elements are not indigenous to your current work ecosystem, then to be a Linchpin you will need to influence the power structure to grant you these ingredients and trust you to flourish in the environment in which you have been unleashed.
Enter the Liars
Wedged between Purple Cow and Linchpin, Mr. Godin wrote a book entitled All Marketers Are Liars. The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World. In this tome, he states, “I believe marketing is the most powerful force available to people who want to make change.” Linchpins want to affect change so they must therefore learn to be good marketers. And if all marketers are liars, then all Linchpins should be liars too.
Actually, what Mr. Godin teaches us is that it’s not really the marketers who are liars. It is the consumers. Good marketers tell stories that resonate with a particular group’s worldview. This group of buyers then tell themselves a lie—that they NEED the product or service. The story the marketers tell becomes the lie upon which the buyer happily bases his purchase.
Linchpins must tell a compelling story that makes their buyers want to believe they NEED the Linchpin. Here are a few pearls of wisdom from the mind of Godin about how to craft the story of indispensability:
Worldviews and Local Lingo
Every person perceives a situation through the filter of their worldview. This worldview cannot be changed. Instead, a strong marketer frames their story to fit the worldview of a particular audience. A Linchpin needs to use this advice to set herself up to be heard. Instead of wasting energy trying to change the worldviews of the powers that be in your organization, frame your story within the context of already held values and beliefs. Get the attention of the people who matter by acknowledging their biases and telling your tale in their lingo.
The facts will fail you. Feelings will help your story fly. All decisions are made by people and people make decisions based on emotion. Tell the story of how your indispensability makes their world that much more secure or the organization that much more successful. Once people have decided to adopt and retell your story, reward them with the facts. Charts, graphs, and statistics are the gift of evidence your supporters will need to confirm they’ve made a wise choice to back you.
Intent is Obvious
Be authentic. Although marketers are liars, they are not really liars. The story marketers tell must still be authentic. A Linchpin is indispensable because she does what she says she’s going to do. There is no way to mask your true intent. Taking on an extra assignment to impress your boss and then turning your back on the responsibility when you think no one is looking is not art it’s selfish opportunism. Tell a story that earns you the right to step up and stand out because taking the risk is the right thing to do for the organization. If your reward lies so far around the bend that you can’t see it from the starting line, then chances are you’re running the race for all the right reasons.
Seth Godin points out that in today’s world of abundance, we need little but want much. That’s why the marketer and consumer are co-conspirators in the lie. The story reverses reality so that we believe what we want is actually something we really need. For the truly remarkable Linchpin, the story isn’t a lie. The organization in which they work really does need their passion, genius, art, and ideas. Companies thrive when groups of Linchpins are free to reach their full potential.