Becoming a Linchpin

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin. The guy is super-smart and generates content like no one else. And by that I mean he generates useful content that has power and meaning; he’s not just putting out link bait. A while back, he wrote a book called Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?.A linchpin is an essential item in a machine, something that if it were not there, would cause the machine to stop working. In the human-organizational world (i.e. your job), becoming a linchpin is about the only way to be sure you’ll stay employed. Given the economy that we are working in right now, being indispensable is far better than the alternative. 

I’m not going to try to re-write the book here (and I’m only 39% of the way through it according to my Kindle), but so far, he’s said some things that I think really resonate with me as a church tech director. For example:

People with passion look for ways to make things happen. The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin.

People with passion look for ways to make things happen. Do you have passion for what you do? Does it consume you? Are you always finding better and smarter ways to get things done? When your pastor or worship leader comes to you with a crazy, last-minute request, do you say no or do you find a way to get it done? The answer determines whether you are a linchpin or a dispensable cog in the wheel. 

He talks a lot about art, and what art is. This is perhaps one of the most intriguing definitions of art I’ve ever heard.

Art, at least art as I define it, is the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person.

Think about that as it relates to what we do every weekend. Getting the mix right, creating the right setting with lights or making sure the proper Scripture verses are up during the message; we do all of those things to create change in others. So it’s art. That means you’re an artist. And artists strive to get better at what they do. When they get really good, they become indispensable. They become linchpins. 

Another concept he delves into is that of emotional labor. He spends a lot of time talking about the difference between physical labor and emotional labor. Physical labor is the stuff that anyone can do (with proper training, anyway). If you need this moved over there, almost anyone can do it. If all you do is move this over there, you don’t have much job security. But if you invest emotional labor into your job, that’s a different story. 

Nobody cares how hard you worked. It’s not an effort contest, it’s an art contest. As customers, we care about ourselves, about how we feel, about whether a product or service or play or interaction changed us for the better. Where it’s made or how it’s made or how difficult it was to make is sort of irrelevant. That’s why emotional labor is so much more valuable than physical labor.

I’ve been re-thinking this concept of late. I have a high (some might say too high) work ethic. I go in early and stay late. I work really hard. I get a lot done. The problem is, not many people care. Oh sure, my boss appreciates the fact that he doesn’t have to manage me, and my church leadership doesn’t expend any effort keeping me in line. However, I wonder if I’m not operating at full efficiency. Anyone can stay late soldering a ton of connectors. I want to be the one who came up with the plan for that system. I want to be the designer more than the implementor. I want to spend more time thinking about better ways to do things, while handing off the physical work to others. 

Coming up with a consistent stream of really good ideas that further the mission of our church will make me indispensable. 

This is only a brief overview of a few of the concepts in this book. I highly recommend it; unless of course you don’t want to be a linchpin...

All quotes are from Seth Godin (2010-01-19). Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (p. 87). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

Today's post is brought to you by Heil Sound. Established in 1966, Heil Sound Ltd. has developed many professional audio innovations over the years, and is currently a world leader in the design and manufacture of large diaphragm dynamic, professional grade microphones for live sound, broadcast and recording.