“Every exchange you have with a coworker or customer is an opportunity to practice the art of interaction, of experience.”

-Seth Godin

This is one of many bestselling books by Seth Godin. Why did I pick this one for my top ten list? I love Linchpin because it so eloquently connects themes across customer experience, innovation, culture, and employee experience. Godin uses the metaphor of a linchpin – the physical version of which holds together wheels and axles – to illustrate how an individual can contribute to the positive energy and purpose of their organization.

There are three defining characteristics of the linchpin that Godin lays out in the book. First, a linchpin has a gift mentality, and is intrinsically motivated to create a better customer or employee experience. In the words of another of my favorite authors, Adam Grant, they choose to be a giver rather than a taker in their interactions with others. Second, a linchpin blazes their own path, rather than staying in their comfort zone and relying on others to give them direction. Because a linchpin is motivated by the impact they have on others, they always seek out new ways to give their gifts. Finally, linchpins are comfortable being their authentic selves, forging emotional connections with others and building trust.

Linchpins are more likely to be innovators. They create exponentially more value for their organizations because they go above and beyond and are more likely to take risks. Linchpins overcome their fear of failure, recognizing that they should not work to suppress their fear, but learn to be comfortable putting themselves out there. Just like an actor or public speaker learns to overcome their anxiety, a linchpin recognizes that every time they act and share their gifts without trying to avoid their anxiety, the feelings eventually go away on their own.

I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of customer experience, innovation and culture, and ways that organizations can better engage and develop the full potential of their people to deliver better outcomes. Linchpin does a masterful job of laying out why employee experience and customer experience are so integrally connected. Most customer experiences are also employee experiences, across industries from retail to hospitality to financial services to healthcare. Most customer journeys also include human-to-human interaction at multiple points in the journey, whether virtually or in person. Think of the increased value that would be created if more leaders, managers, and frontline employees behaved as linchpins!

In my next book review I’ll write about Leading Outside the Lines, which covers similar themes as Linchpin around how individuals can help spread positive energy in your organization. Leading Outside the Lines is also one of many books written by Jon Katzenbach. The Katzenbach Center, a culture community at PwC, focuses on culture and its connection to organizational effectiveness, calls linchpins “authentic informal leaders.” They are the social influencers inside your company and key to successfully navigating culture evolution.

For a selection of some of my own articles on related topics, including some written together with colleagues from the Katzenbach Center, please see this collection of links on our website.

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