Linchpin: How to become a linchpin at work and be the best employee.

July 11, 2019 / Comments Off on Linchpin: How to become a linchpin at work and be the best employee.


Updated May 2020

In his book “linchpin,” Seth Godin defines a linchpin in broad terms as someone who is indispensable to an organization.

Godin is a legend in the world of the Internet and marketing in general and he was one of the first people I became aware of back in the day, but I do have one issue with what he says and that is the use of the word “indispensable.”

Coming from a staffing background and having recruited for some of the world’s leading companies as well as for my own, I can never see anyone as indispensable and even if it were true, it would create a huge degree of discomfort and a determination not to have to rely on indispensability!

Now if we simply change the word to “invaluable,” I think a lot more people would be far more comfortable, so for this article, I will make that change with regard to the word “linchpin.”

So can you become a linchpin at work and be the best employee?


I am going to share with you some immediately actionable tips and strategies to do two things:

  1. Help you make yourself invaluable in your workplace
  2. Significantly increase your value in the open job market

And here is a final thought:

Godin sets the scene in beautifully in his book and he explains regarding employment, that if someone can tell you what to do and write down what you are doing, then they can tell someone else to do it cheaper.

This is also in relation to another fact that companies are now breaking down larger projects and in some cases operations, into smaller “bite-sized” chunks to give to many in order to reduce costs and these pieces can be done in-house and remotely.

This is a far cry from just a few decades ago when we could all think of having a job for life and retiring gracefully.

What happened to the world of work?

The answer to this question really depends on when you were born. If you are in your 40’s or 50’s, then you will have heard of the phrase “a job for life” and this is because your parents will have explained to you that you must get a good education, get a professional qualification or join a solid industry and a solid company to progress up the career ladder and retire gracefully.


If you are just graduating, then you will have a totally different view.

While you have still followed the educational path, your appreciation of what jobs were available will be totally different from the previous age group I have talked about and in fact just take a look at ten jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago to see the speed of change.

Globalization, the rise of the Internet and automation has simply shifted the economy to a point where competition has dramatically increased and forced change and it has created a new gig economy, which is discussed in this BBC article, allowing people to take control of their careers and in some cases dictate employment terms to their potential employers if they have specific and in-demand skills.

What makes the best employee?

There are many qualities that contribute to being the “best” employee and this article on HubSpot gives a great insight into the key values and also the company culture that drives them — “18 Core Company Values That Will Shape Your Culture & Inspire Your Employees.”

Using corporate giants such as American Express, and Coca-Cola, you can see the commitment that these organizations have to not only their own values but in developing them for the benefit of their employees.

Notice that I use the term “benefit” and I mean that anyone working for those companies will have values taught and instilled into them for life and any future employer would reap the benefit.

I wonder how many linchpins exist with those companies and others like them?

But what if you are starting out in the world of work, or don’t have the luxury of such training or even if you do, then how do you become even better?

I am writing this article from both an entrepreneurial perspective and  that means starting companies with very little cash and also from a corporate recruiting background where I have delivered in-demand skills to some of the worlds leading  organizations, so I understand both sides of the fence and my goal here is to  share with you my entrepreneurial thinking.

Given the fact that the largest and richest corporations are investing heavily in automation, it is essential that you take back control over your own career and future.

For me, it is essential that you see yourself as a corporation in your own right and better still, a full-blown Enterprise.

And what better investment can you make by investing in the “Enterprise of You.”?

As I said there are many qualities that make up the “best” employee, but in the future, it will be human qualities.

Building the linchpin foundations

I would like you to think about the following statement:

Ordinary people with extraordinary stories.

The best recruiters never chase jobs that exist on the open market, nor do they endlessly pester companies or candidates in the quest for information –they already know it.


They also have the ability to create opportunities simply by marketing the very best talent to the companies that can utilize, develop, and challenge the skillsets and personal qualities of that talent…

Irrespective of whether those companies have vacancies or not.

They do this by identifying the top 20% of talent in any industry and then go on to contact companies on a personal level and at the highest level, simply because they know they can get quick decisions from the very people that are experiencing the customer problems and challenges.

I have never met a CEO or any Executive Leader who will not talk to someone who may bring value to their organization.

It is their duty to do so and their shareholders demand it.

It doesn’t matter if you are a school leaver, graduate or seasoned employee, if you can demonstrate you are in the top 20% of the talent pool, then you will be of interest to any employer.


The best recruiters will take the time and effort to “dig deep” into the backgrounds of their candidates and will look at every possible piece of information to build a “story” which will then be used to market that person.

There are many times during my  35-year recruiting career where I have uncovered the most extraordinary stories from ordinary people and that is because many people don’t know how powerful their story is, or have no idea as to how to present it.

Again, it doesn’t matter if you are a school leaver, or a CEO we all have a story to tell and it is your own personal story that creates the uniqueness and value of you.

I am going to show you to create your own individual story and then how to think like a recruiter and market it — this is where we begin to make you a linchpin and put you on the path to becoming the best employee as well as building your value in the open job market.

Once you have created your story, it is time to create the real value of you and I term this your Unique Value Proposition (UVP).

Your UVP is not simply for your job, it is the value of you and what you bring to this world, or think of it as your Universal Value.

It is also a real and dynamic value that operates in ‘real-time.’

There are also two distinct components of your UVP:

  1. Technical – “what you know”
  2. Emotional – “who you are”

In today’s world of increasing automation, economic volatility and uncertainty, it is far more important to increase the value of “who you are” as skills can be taught easily and that is if they cannot be automated, but human factors must be nurtured and it will be the human factors in an ever-increasing automated world that will make up the core components of linchpins.

Emotional Intelligence

Almost everyone has heard about Intelligence Quotient (IQ), but although Emotional Intelligence (EQ) (or Quotient as it is sometimes referred to) has been around since the birth of mankind, fewer people are aware of its importance and the definition from the Institute for Health and Human Potential discusses its importance and traces the history…

Emotional Intelligence is the single, vital component of being a linchpin

We are facing the era of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as explained perfectly by Forbes and it will impact all of our lives in ways we never possible.


With the Internet of Things, defined and explained by wired and AI, the world will transform and the opportunity exists to maximize and leverage the emotional value of human beings and capability.

In the world of a recruiter, there is a split of what is termed “hard” skills and “soft” skills — emotional intelligence refers to soft skills and candidates were and still are measured on the quality of those skills.

Now let’s get into the world of marketing and advertising for a moment and you can see the way advertisers connect their target audiences emotionally with brands, but one company Saatchi and Saatchi took it even further.

Their term “Lovemarks,” talks about going beyond brand recognition and forming a deep connection and intimacy with the brand.

Linchpins need to think along the same lines — they are deeply connected to their environment and more importantly, themselves.

They have a huge degree of self-awareness.

The problem with emotional intelligence is that it is extremely hard to measure and quantify — it is probably more measurable by being on the receiving end.

Here are some points for you to be aware of:

Be giving in nature

Too many people want to “take” and have no concept of giving.  I remember people who would do so much for me and give me time, gifts, and advice without any expectations in return.

These people shaped not only my life but also my thinking and it has made me who I am today.

The best employees do far more than they are paid to do and that is because they are not thinking about the money.

In today’s Internet world, there are so many people who are so eager to take your money and fill their bank accounts — they are not linchpins and in fact a drain on society.

I respect anyone who is “giving” in nature and one person who is definitely a linchpin is Fernando Raymond and that is why after searching around for years for a person to help me with my online business ideas, I decided to work with Fernando.

Linchpins always give away for free, many things they can make money from and Fernando is no exception as I do as well.

Perhaps this is the most important attribute of being a linchpin and the best employee.

Use instinct

Try to “get out of your head” and use your heart — Instinct has been with you since birth — as a parent of three children, I watched them all naturally and instinctively run to certain people when they were young and run away from others!


There was no pattern to this and it was simply something they did.

Everyone was born with this instinctive ability and it certainly was not taught to us.

it is time to tap into and start using probably what is the most powerful tool we humans have.

Linchpins are extremely instinctive and so too are the best employees and they rely more on feeling than pure facts to power decision making.

Don’t get me wrong, linchpins are still driven by facts and figures, but there is a huge emotional component to them, so start to work and think instinctively — take your mind off the problem for a moment and do something else, go for a walk or just relax and see what comes out and you may just find that “eureka” moment.

Respect time

I always ask people what is more important — time or money.

Quite a few reply “money” and they are of course wrong.


Money can be made, but time cannot be replaced.

I hate being late for anything or anyone and I had a former business partner who was exactly the opposite — he was always late because he “hated being kept waiting.”

If you cannot keep to a time when agreeing to it, then you have no respect for that person’s time.

Linchpins respect time.

Linchpins are also extremely generous with their time and often with their money as well.

You can make someone feel very special simply by taking the time to talk, walk or do whatever with someone and especially when you are short of time.

I remember people who generously gave their time to me when I was starting my own company, learning to cook or Martial Arts, and really anyone who would go out of their way to help.

It is amazing what a few well-chosen minutes or hours can do for someone’s self-esteem and this is where you can really make a huge difference to someone.  Never, ever underestimate the value of giving someone your time.


You knew that one was coming…nothing really more to say, but take a little test and smile at people you don’t know or when interacting with them and you will instantly see a change in behavior.

Be natural

Have you ever wondered why some people, who often perform extremely complicated tasks make them look so effortless?

Linchpins make difficult tasks and solve difficult problems effortlessly because they approach everything in a natural manner — nothing is forced or contrived.

I have worked with many professionally qualified people including lawyers, mathematicians, doctors, and scientists — the best ones were not only the ones who had a huge amount of subject matter expertise but the ones who would also explain things to me is a simple way and without being condescending.

Which brings me to the next point…

Never be arrogant

We are all guilty of this in some way, but you must keep any thoughts of arrogance out of your life.

I talked about professionally qualified people in the last point and a great deal of those people were guilty of arrogance and why?

I don’t care how many qualifications you have — that is your choice and just as a carpenter studied hard to master his or her art a doctor is the same.

We all have our role to play in society and I will talk about a person who I would regard as a linchpin who is a Medical Professor and a friend of mine who is the most down-to-earth person anyone could meet and he puts everyone at ease, simply by the way he greets and handles them.

If you own a company and employ a receptionist, then that receptionist is the first point of contact for your company.  A linchpin receptionist will be in the top 20% of the receptionists and will be a huge asset to any company.

When I used to travel the world for my own company, I would feel a lot more comfortable when visiting a client if the receptionist was happy, friendly, and helpful.

It set’s the scene for the meeting.

Strive to be a better human being

I believe everyone has a purpose in life and our own job is to find ours.

You don’t have to go deep and spiritual here, just be aware that you do have a purpose in life.

Unfortunately, most of us and including me in my younger years do not devote anywhere near enough time into finding our purpose.


We are so caught up in day-to-day life that we think of nothing else and lose any ability to take a long, hard look at ourselves and hopefully, this article will help you do at least that.

Being a better human being is not just about how much you give to charity, for example, it is about each and every interaction you have with people and in any walk of life, with the objective of making those interactions better.

How hard is it to do something good and how difficult is it to be nice to people; to diffuse situations rather than antagonize them?

I know in my youth I was far more aggressive with life in general and the turning point for me came after the birth of my first child.

That was a time for me to sit back and think — my personal commitment to my first child at that time and to the other two that followed was for them to have a better life than me.

Perhaps the best quote I can give you came from my friend and mentor Stephen Chang, who has advised me in business and personally for over twenty years:

“Treat someone how you would want your children to be treated”

Just the other day when I was about to “lose it” with a so-called customer service agent of a very well know British company, I remembered those words and in all seriousness, it did make me stop and look at the situation differently!

Passion — the linchpin building block

I do what I do purely out of passion and I was also fortunate enough to be able to turn one of my passions, entrepreneurship into an income.


I have many other passions such as martial arts, music, golf, cooking reading, writing, wine, etc.

You get the idea and I can talk endlessly about any of those subjects if I choose to because I have enough knowledge to do so and that knowledge arose out of passion.

Back to my passion for entrepreneurship and business.

I started my global staffing business back in the early 1990s and as soon as I started it, I had effectively “retired.”

What I mean here is that I had stopped ‘working” for a living and I was now doing what I enjoyed, so I had no problem devoting endless hours to it.

Work for me is doing something that I simply don’t enjoy, like chopping down a tree and if I have to do it, I will find the fastest and most efficient means to do it, just so that I can go back and do something that I really enjoy.

A linchpin is totally passionate about what they do and they will devote time and energy to it.

They will immerse themselves.

If you in a job at the moment that you don’t enjoy, it’s time for a change — that change could well come from within your own company, but no matter what, you will never be happy doing what you don’t enjoy.

It’s a battle between the heart and the mind — your mind tells you that you have to do the job because you need the money and your heart is telling you to run a mile and do something else

Think like a corporation

Now I am coming to blending the emotional qualities and intelligence with the fact that I would like you to think of yourself as a corporation and more importantly an Enterprise.


I am covering here, the basics of a program I am working on with Fernando, called the “Enterprise Of You” and this program will help you be the very best that you can be in your life.

Now every corporation has a CEO and you are the CEO of your own enterprise, so let’s assemble the pieces and it doesn’t matter where you are in your career, take some time to step away from it and start building:

  • Mission and values – who are you, what do you want to be and what are your core values
  • Market – who is your target audience in your industry or what industry are you going to target and why – what problems and challenges is your audience facing
  • Message – what message are you going to deliver to that audience and how are you going to solve their problems
  • Model – What model of operation are you going to follow – are you going to start a new career as a freelancer, stay employed or even start a company
  • Metrics – how are you going to measure progress, measure and manage risk and stay on track

Let’s go deeper into each component:

1.Mission and values

The starting point is to find out “who you are,” and identify your core values, so give some detailed thought to the following and this will also shape each section of your Enterprise:

  • Education — go right back to the beginning and list what you have learned even if it was 2 grades of a musical instrument and of course, where you are today, plus what you would like to learn if you could
  • Work history — every job you have had if you have worked
  • Dream job/career — what would you absolutely love to do
  • Passions, hobbies, and interests — self-explanatory but list all of them, even the ones you abandoned and any you would like to start
  • Awards, achievements and any evidence of leadership — it doesn’t matter if you were the captain of your school’s netball team, every piece of achievement in your life provided a “reference point” that can be built upon
  • Beliefs and what you stand for — this is a critically important part of the audit and be honest – you are not going to market these points to anyone at this time, only yourself, but it is a huge part of “who you are”
  • Recognize what you don’t like and explain why — it is also important to deal with anything that you are not comfortable with and that you don’t like — even people
  • Tangible evidence of “soft qualities” – everyone overuses the qualities of “honesty,” “integrity,” “hard-working,” “determined,” “reliable,” etc.  Provide evidence, no matter how small that evidence is

You have now created what I term your “Master C.V./Resume” and that is the foundation of your story.

If you have done the process correctly and in great detail, you will have a clear idea as to:

  • Who you are and what you stand for
  • What you want to do/be and why

“Linchpins have a great deal of self-awareness and are always looking to improve their good qualities as well as work on their weaknesses — a chain will always break at the weakest link, so it is important to strengthen that link.”

2. Market

Now it is time to start to look at your industry in great detail, not just from the perspective of your own job, but the entire industry and firstly from an investment point of view, and here is an article on how to do it.

How much is your industry worth who are the major investors in it, what are the most successful companies and why, what are the visions for the future, and so on?

You want big-picture thinking so that you can have not only a deep understanding of everything but also to help you to form opinions, which is a vital step to being heard by your colleagues, bosses, potential employers or to help you through your first interview.

Take it down a level now to your own company or the companies you would like to work with – what are their visions, what separates them from the competition?

Check the statements of the Chairman and the CEO by looking at the annual reports of the companies and here is a source where you can find them.

Now start to identify not only the problems and challenges that are faced today but what is also likely to occur in the future.

You should now have a clear picture of your own company and where it stands within the industry, a company you would love to work for or a company you want to target for your first job.

You will also not only understand the problems and challenges that are facing your industry and companies today but also for the future.

“Linchpins are great researchers and absorb information well.  They always have an open mind and use fact-based information to make decisions and to help and inspire people.  They are also interested in the future and by being “predictive,” they can often spot problems well in advance and provide solutions in anticipation.”

3. Message

Now we have gone through the self-discovery and research phases, it is time to put this into action and start to “move the message.”

You will have essentially “re-discovered” yourself here and will probably look at your existing job if you are working in a whole new light but wherever you are in your career, I cannot stress enough the importance of this next step and it is an essential “home” for everything you do from this point, whether you make it public (which I also urge you to do) or not:

Get a domain name and start a blog

Go to the man who inspired my blog, Fernando Raymond and get your own name personal domain and host it on seekahost.com  — you will be up and running in no time and if you have any issues their support is fantastic.


Why a blog

You can read about why I started a blog, but let me make this personal to you.

I truly believe there will be a war for talent in the future and I am seeing a trend develop where the power is being handed back to the job seeker.

The top 20% of anything is always in hot demand and this will apply to people.

Even a few years ago in the US, I heard about a particular skills shortage where companies were openly bidding for talent in this industry and paying hugely over the odds.

They were no longer able to dictate to the market as the market had reversed — it was the companies who were being dictated to.

I can see this occurring not just in industries where there are say, technical shortages, but where the “human factor” becomes the driving force of the economy in general

How will companies find talent in the future?

Specialist employment agencies and recruiters — maybe, but the world of recruitment is changing and the days of huge fees payable to these companies are disappearing and if any of you have ever dealt with a bad recruiter, then you will also know the frustration that comes with it.

Job Boards, Linkedin, etc. — here you can find the talent, but it becomes a matter of trusting it and how deep does it go in revealing the “who” of the person?

Recommendation — this is always the best way, but it is not as scalable.

So people will conduct a good and simple search on the web and here is where you can be found, especially if you put out quality content on your blog/website.  I am not suggesting for one minute that this is the fastest and most efficient way of marketing yourself, but I am telling you to get the process started and build your “home” on the Internet as this is a personal piece of real estate that you could turn a huge profit on.

Compelling Reasons To Have A Blog

Register and protect your own name on the Internet

Build your Master C.V./Resume

Get your Unique Value Proposition out to the world

Produce quality and relevant content

Connect with other industry influencers

Develop a writing habit

Be visible to like-minded people and companies

Showcase your passions, beliefs and core values


For me, it developed a daily writing habit (I don’t post daily, but it keeps me disciplined) where I can just put down my thoughts and then come back to them later.

It is also a great place for you to see how far you have progressed and with my blogging, I can look back and see where I have come from and use that to shape the future.

I simply want to share my expertise and knowledge gained in business and life to help and inspire others and this is why I started my blog.

I will slowly but surely develop more content and distribute that content through other channels and if I want to boost the success, I can get into paid advertising such as Social Media Marketing on various platforms.

And you can do exactly the same.

Your blog and the site as a whole will be the focal point for everything you do — your presentations, Master C.V/Master Resume, any other resumes you will send out for specific jobs, and literally everything about you.

Much of this information will not be published unless you want it to, but you can create a masterpiece if you go about it in the right way and you can showcase everything you do.

“Linchpins are effective communicators and good listeners — they are able to sell and market themselves effortlessly and that quality in itself naturally inspires others.  They are natural leaders and treat companies that they work for like their own.”

4. Model

This is simply to determine how you structure what you have now designed — will you start a company, become a freelancer or stay in the job world?

Many people who I have taken through this process and when they “rediscover themselves” have a total change of direction.

They may realize that they should go for an Executive Leadership position after being a manager, or they simply go freelance because they discover their worth in that world.

Some leave the job world to start a company because again, they see themselves in a different light.

“Linchpins have clear operating models and focus on them intently, but they have the capacity to change and do so with clear reasoning.”

5. Metrics

It is important to measure and track everything — from each internal presentation you do to every job application and every interaction.

Make sure you crunch the numbers and react accordingly.

“Linchpins measure everything and that helps keep them on a fact-based track, where others rely purely on emotion. They are also able to rapidly interpret information and react accordingly.”

Overcoming Fear

What I also love about what  Godin talks about is that he believes the key to making ourselves indispensable (his term), lies in overcoming the fears that hold most of us back.

Now I like to replace the word “fear” with the word “concern” and this comes from right back from my Martial Arts days.

I had the privilege to study with one of the world’s greatest Martial Artists, although that term does him an injustice in my opinion as he has so much to offer this world called Steve Morris and he explained to me that fear is paralyzing, concern motivates.

Morris is absolutely right as was the late Cus D’amato, the first trainer of boxer Mike Tyson, who explained that the hero and the coward both face the same emotions but react differently and this short video below explains it beautifully:

This resonates with me personally in so many ways, but specifically in raising my own children and helping them to learn one of the most important qualities that are not taught in our educational system – self-belief.

Taking action

Fernando and I are going to go much deeper into this area in our forthcoming program the “Enterprise of You,” as there is simply too much to cover in this article.


The first thing you need to do is to learn how to sell and market yourself and I have written an article that you may find useful — what to look for in a candidate when hiring for the sales department and it will give you some ideas.

The most important part now is to spread the message and that begins with making new connections as well as strengthening existing ones.

Engage with people and infect them with your new-found enthusiasm and self-confidence that you will have increased simply by taking the steps outlined here.

The simplest and most effective way is to simply share your ideas and be open to the ideas of others — by doing this, good things will happen.

Talk to people in your organization that you haven’t engaged with and a good example is to interact with people who have nothing to do with what you do!

If you are finance, go and spend some time with sales and vice-versa.

Attend workshops and presentations that are again, outside of your expertise, and simply get used to dealing and interacting with different people.

When I was building my companies and also in the early part of my entrepreneurial career, I could not get enough knowledge or information.

I would talk to absolutely everyone and anyone, who I thought that I could learn from and this step shows willingness and openness.


You now have a much deeper understanding of yourself and now it is about applying it.

So make a roadmap of where you want to be in your job, career, or life and start to take action.

Here are some key takeaways

  • Linchpins are invaluable people in the workplace and never indispensable
  • They have a greater  value in the open job market
  • There is no longer a “job for life”
  • Automation, The Internet of Things and AI are economic drivers
  • If someone can write down what you do and tell you, they can find someone else to do it cheaper
  • Companies are fragmenting operations and tasks to reduce costs
  • The best employees in the future will have the greatest human qualities
  • Linchpins will occupy the top 20% of talent in any industry
  • They will each have a Unique and Universal Value Proposition
  • Emotional Intelligence is the most vital component of being a linchpin
  • Linchpins and the best employees have a high degree of self-awareness
  • They strive to be better human beings
  • Think like a corporation
  • Research your industry and think like an investor
  • Create your own clear and concise message
  • Get your own name domain name and start a blog 
  • Make sure you have a clear idea of the model you will follow and measure everything
  • Learn to embrace and overcome fear — replace “fear” with “concern”
  • Take action and connect with people and share ideas and knowledge
  • Learn how to sell and market yourself
  • Never stop learning

If you want to talk about really pushing yourself to the top of the talent pool then talk to me personally!

Neil Franklin

Neil Franklin-Entrepreneur

Last modified: July 12, 2021