“Shut up, just shut up. You had me at hello.”
Seth Godin had me at “hello” in his new book, Linchpin. And there’s so much to love in the book that I’ll start with that.
I’ve documented my struggles to establish a memorable brand for myself, even though my professional success has been based on creating clarity in the face of complexity.
Linchpin resolves that challenge. It’s on the inside front cover flap: Linchpins “invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos. They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book.” OK, I now have the foundation for crystallizing my own linchpin brand.
Here are the seven traits of linchpins:
- Providing a unique interface between members of the organization.
- Delivering unique creativity
- Managing a situation or organization of great complexity
- Leading customers
- Inspiring staff
- Providing deep domain knowledge
- Possessing a unique talent
There’s an interesting dynamic at play. Linchpins are people who, by definition, make themselves indispensable to an organization and therefore should be safe from layoff. But I suspect many organizations don’t properly recognize their linchpins and might very well let them go in favor of keeping people who don’t rock the boat. And the linchpins will, in the long run, be better off for it.
The challenge — if you’re a job-seeking linchpin — is figuring out how to highlight those traits in a way that gets you past the gatekeepers whose job it is to eliminate people who don’t perfectly fit the job description. And linchpins rarely do, because the things they do well aren’t in the job description.
The problem — and this ties back to my use of the Jerry Maguire quote — is that Godin, who has rock-star status in many corners, is preaching to the choir. He had me at hello, but it took 48 pages or so to get to the chapter on Becoming a Linchpin as he tried to convince me I needed to become one. The reviews have been terrific; the adulation virtually unanimous. But I wonder if the people who would buy this book wanted less convincing and more linchpin “tools.”
But that said, it was worth the wait. This book is jammed with great stories — at times he could have edited more ruthlessly — and I feel I’m on a streak of three books that are changing the way I’m approaching the next chapter of my life (Switch, this one, and The Checklist Manifesto).
If you’ve read the book, how do you go about convincing a prospective employer that they should make room for a linchpin like you in their organization?
As an increasing number of people consider consulting as an alternative strategy to their job search, they’re finding that their business cards don’t serve both purposes (i.e., their “job search” cards are not entirely “on message” for their consulting strategy).
A friend asked me for my reaction to possible names and taglines for his new consulting practice. At first blush, they didn’t excite me. This is a guy whose job search is focused on finding himself a role as an “Innovation Executive.” Clear and to the point. When I see job postings that use those words, I think of George and forward them.
So we spent some time talking through what he loves to do and what kind of consulting projects he expects to get. As he talked, I captured his words (because I now think he can strengthen his 30-second commercial) and typed in possible domain names (I know, I know. I wasn’t demonstrating great listening skills but I told him what I was doing).
We found something that will work for people Googling (Binging) his unique value proposition, particularly if he focuses on using other keywords in his blog and on his website. His company name will work with both his job search and his prospecting for consulting clients. All in all, 30 minutes well spent and we pledged to talk again in a few days about the taglines.
I took this same approach with my brand. Once I got comfortable with the bulldog concept, I found a domain name that leveraged the brand. And then I created this blog using the same approach. All in all, I think the three sync up pretty well, although I’m sure I could be doing better.
Is your brand consistent? Could people find you fairly easily if they were having problems spelling (or remembering) your name, or if they were looking for someone who has your unique skills?
I’m sorry the Super Bowl is over.
Back in November, I posted on how Colts QB Peyton Manning prepares. People read it back then, but I got nowhere near as many hits as I have in the past two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl (the NFL can come after me if it wants but I refuse to refer to it as the Big Game). And today, now that the game is over, only a few stragglers have clicked in from what I presume is a Google, Bing or WordPress search.
My blogging goal is to build a community of people who believe in the principles of Bulldog Simplicity. In some ways, I hope my readers help me better define those principles. In other ways, I hope to influence people to simplify the way they approach their lives and work.
So I realize that many of the people who found this blog through a Peyton Manning search left irritated. “Damn, a business blog,” many of them no doubt muttered and clicked over to Matthew Berry on ESPN.com. But I fantasize (perhaps too strong a word) that some of those people liked what I wrote, looked at other postings, and perhaps bookmarked me for another look somewhere down the line. Each of them is welcome to join the community.
I keep an eye on what drives traffic to this blog…and what drives comments. One of the ways I’m trying to build traffic and followers is by posting links on my LinkedIn groups. Personal Branding posts do extremely well…presumably because many of my group members are also looking for work and are frustrated by the lack of responses they receive from recruiters or hiring executives.
One post that flopped, to my great surprise, was one at year-end, where I launched a contest where people who commented or subscribed could win one of three great business books that were released in 2009. Three people read the post, and I received one comment and no subscriptions from it. I shamelessly stole the idea from someone who apparently received hundreds of responses from his similar posting so I was really shocked by the lack of response, particularly with the word “Win” in the headline, but it taught me that free isn’t attractive without trust. And I clearly hadn’t totally built that in my community.
Launching a blog has been a great experience. If you had told me I’d have nearly 5,000 hits in just a few months, I’d have told you you were crazy. Publishing regularly has gotten me back into a deadline mode and helped keep my skills sharp. I’ve introduced myself to people who I never would have met without it. And I’ve learned a lot — from my own results and from reading people like Seth Godin, Chris Brogan and many others — about building a social community on the Internet, which will be a great new skill I bring to clients or a new employer.
How about you? Any tips for me (and everyone else) on building a stronger community?
A few months ago, Seth Godin asked 70 of the brightest minds on the Internet to talk about a word or a phrase that answers the question, What Matters Now — something to thnk about as we enter the New Year. He’s turned those thoughts into an e-book called, of course, What Matters Now that you can download here for free.
Some of my favorite writers are represented here — people who are Must Reads on their own. Alan Webber, who wrote the Rules of Thumb — his word was Unsustainability. Tom Peters (Excellence, of course). Chip and Dan Heath (Change). Chris Anderson (Atoms). Dan Pink (Autonomy). Tim Sanders (Confidence). Zappos’s Tony Hsieh (Poker). Seth himself (Generosity). And the list goes on and on.
I have to say it surprises me that the word that drives this blog isn’t represented: Simplicity. Perhaps it’s the growing complexity of the Web and of social media that led the word to be ignored. Perhaps, as I continue to read through this book I’ll find that Simplicity is covered by a brighter mind than my own under the guise of a different word.
Seth is hoping for 5 million hits on this book through the various sites that are letting readers download it. More to the point, he’s hoping for a lot of dialogue around the thoughts in his book and by readers who have their own thoughts.
What do you think? Which of these resonated with you? What’s missing? What Matters To You? I’ll be blogging on Simplicity soon. I hope to have the chance to read your thoughts too.
Peter Osborne helps businesses -- and, increasingly, individuals -- sharpen their brand and strategic messages and eliminate barriers to marketing success. Throughout his career, he's always been a "bulldog" who brings simplicity (i.e., consistency, discipline, and structure) where it's needed. For more about me, my background, and my goals for this blog (including why you should subscribe), click on my About page.
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