Linchpin – Are you one?

Do you feel you are paid enough by your organization? Why do you think the company feels you don’t deserve more when you have done all the work assigned to you? These are the questions that are there in almost every employee in the world.

Linchpin is a book written by Seth Godin which answers some of these questions and provide a plan to make yourself indispensable to the company.

Before industrial revolution, there were no factories and all the goods that were produced were handmade and since they were hand-made, each unit of what you produced was unique. Each person was basically his own employer selling his unique skills like able to make a wheel for the horse cart etc. And for such unique skills, they were highly paid by customers.

Then came the industrial revolution where factories became the center of all production. Every unit was standardized and people became only an expense in the company balance sheet required to run the factories. Factories being companies naturally looked for ways to minimize this cost by brining in rules to reduce waste and increase productivity.

Soon, it became a norm to follow the rules laid out by the company, work hard you could take home decent pay. Even the schooling system was changed to train people in following rules. Children are systematically punished for breaking rules and rewarded for following them without understanding the rules. The result is that most of the students are perfectly trained to work in a factory where you just need to follow rules.

However, what people don’t realise is that things have changed again and industrial revolution was just an anomaly in the history of mankind. Seth Godin says that individuality and unique skills are again in demand. Your brain is again the center of production, not he computer provided to you by the company. However, our education system still has not changed and following rules without question is still being taught.

He compares a person who just does his work and waits for instructions to a cog in the machinery. It is easily replaceable by the company. However, if you provide something extra to the company, then you become the linchpin – the part that holds the machinery together and makes it all work.

He says every one of us has the capability to become a linchpin,but our basic survival instinct likes to follow rules. He calls this instinct Lizard brain. A part of our brain does not like to stand out, because if you stand out, you become a prey for other animals. Hence, it pushes us to conform,remain anonymous and to follow rules. Most of us listen to this part of the brain and remain cogs in the company.

If you consciously fight this lizard brain, then you are willing to provide ideas, stand out and willing to see your ideas shot down by others. When ideas get shot down, your lizard brain again wakes up and says “I told you so”, but a person who keeps fighting it eventually becomes a linchpin.

If an employer is able  to put down all the things you do in a sheet of paper, then you are not a linchpin. Seth Godin says one of the important characteristics a linchpin possesses is that he delivers unique creativity. A linchpin possesses a unique capability that cannot be explained or put in words or measured. However, this unique ability helps him provide creative solutions and deliver results. One such capability is that you are able to bring in enthusiasm or help gel the people into a proper team.  By bringing in enough enthusiasm, you might help some other member in the team to be more productive and arrive at a solution to a problem. These are characteristics that cannot be put in as requirements in a job profile. Even if you do, how will you measure it while interviewing a candidate?

If you constantly provide unique abilities, then you become indispensible. Once you become indispensible, your value within the company increases and you start to get what you feel you deserve.

He concludes the book by saying that many people think that their superiors will not like people who are always questioning the rules and would like to them to just do their work. He says it is just their lizard brain trying to stop them from standing out. You should ask your managers, in fact, most managers are racking their brains to try to motivate people and try to get them to do stuff other than their routine work.

I am sure that is the case in CDC software as I have been in some of these meetings. Managers want people to try new stuff and there are a few people who are stepping up and unafraid of standing out. These people are our linchpin. Are you one of them?

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