Become a linchpin

lessons for nonprofits from Linchpin


I promised I would share more with you from Seth Godin’s speech at the seminar organized by the  Can Do Society April 22 at Canisius College.

Godin is a marketer and best-selling author. His most recent book is Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?


The best I can do is give you a few quotes and urge you to read Linchpin. Give me a call and I’ll lend you my copy. It’s a great inspiration for anyone who, rather than trying to do the minimum they can get away with, tries to accomplish as much as they can. I think that includes all of my readers.


(I almost said the book is a great “guide,” but that implies that there is a map to navigate today’s world, and, as Godin said repeatedly, there is no map.)


Whether you started your own small nonprofit or are part of a large organization, Godin urges you to become a linchpin, the person who is indispensible because she holds things together.


How can you do that? Here are a couple of my favorite points:


“Make a decision to do work that matters.” That’s probably why you got into this field.


“Take a chance that you might be criticized.” Whoa, that’s probably a lot harder to take to heart.


Being a linchpin isn’t about being a cog in a huge machine and obeying orders, it’s about having a vision, seeing solutions and taking chances. These are the people who make themselves indispensible.


If your organization wanted to replace you with someone far better than you, would they look for someone willing to work more hours or who had more experience in your field?


“No, the competitive advantage the marketplace demands is someone more human, connected and mature,” Godin writes. “Someone with passion and energy, capable of seeing things as they are and negotiating multiple priorities as she makes useful decisions without angst. Flexible in the face of change, resilient in the face of confusion.


“All of these attributes are choices, not talents, and all of them are available to you.”


Wouldn’t your donors like to deal with someone like that?  How might it help your organization if you were to become a linchpin? Do you think your organization would find you more valuable if you became a linchpin? Maybe the answers to those questions will help you decide to become a linchpin.


I’m going to stop there and encourage you just to read the book.


The other wonderful speaker at the Can Do Seminar was Linda Eaton, a founding partner of the Galileo Initiative and an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker.


I do want to acknowledge the students and alumni of the Can Do Society. They include my colleague, Ryan Najmulski, as well as Joshua Coleman, Andrew Loewen, Matthew McDermott, Sandra Nwosu, Scott Robinson, Stephen Seeler, Kim Suffoleto, Mark Wolbert, Nicholas Yu and Justin Jolls. They’re a bright, engaging and energetic group and I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with most of them. Dr. Ji-Hee Kim, another lovely person, is the advisor.


Dan Fisher, Class of 2008, is a stand-up comic who acted as host for the event. He was really funny and I look forward to seeing him again.


One last thing: If you read my last post, you may be wondering what happened with my county legislator. I had e-mailed him the same day I e-mailed Seth Godin. Although I was just a stranger to Godin, he replied to me the same day, but my county legislator never responded to my e-mail. Five days later, I telephoned and left a message for my county legislator. He called me back a couple hours later. While he doesn’t agree with me on the issue I had contacted him about, we did have a long talk.

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