In Hire Freaks, I talked about finding great employees who think outside the box.
In Seth Godin’s new book Linchpin, he outlines the how and why we have become a society of ‘factory workers’ who are conditioned from childhood to “follow the rules.” If you have not read this book yet, I highly recommend it. Since the industrial revolution our entire system of development from birth to adulthood has been centered around training factory workers. We are taught to color within the lines, to write a structurally perfect essay, to make safe decisions. As adult managers and employees we go to work, do as we are told, then go home. Godin asserts, and I have to wholeheartedly agree, that these ideals are fading away. My Hire Freaks post was directed at anyone who hires people. Godin’s latest work focuses on all of us and what we can do to make ourselves indispensable while at the same time living a richer more fulfilling life.
A little background is key and I hope I don’t butcher these concepts too bad, but here it goes: An artist as defined by Godin, is not necessarily that person who can paint, sculpt or draw but rather he asserts that all of us are artists. He defines art as anything you can see, touch, feel that enhances, innovates or in any way moves another person.
I witnessed an artist, or linchpin, in action while on an airplane this last weekend. While waiting for our airplane to take off I noticed a young girl sitting alone in the window seat across the aisle. She was quietly clenching her blanket and fighting to hold back tears. She was about 11 years old and obviously was troubled about something. My wife happens to be great with kids, so I pointed this out to her. Without missing a beat, she leaned over and engaged the young girl to see if she could help. It turns out that the girl was on her way to see her father for a month and she was sad about leaving her mother. Throughout the flight, my wife kept checking up on her. Where were the flight attendants? Not one of them cared enough to pause and give this child a gift of kindness. I overheard one attendant speaking to another passenger about how tired they were and this was their last flight of the day. These attendants are factory workers! Godin coincidentally actually used flight attendants as an example in Linchpin and referred to the all too familiar bizarre interaction with most attendants as we exit the plane (“…buy-bye, buy-bye, buy-bye, buy-bye…”). I think I already knew this, but this example asserts that my wife is a linchpin and an artist in everything she does in life.
We all have come in contact with artists and for that matter, more than our fair share of factory workers…
The waitress or restaurant worker who is quite simply: amazing at what they do. Never mind they are at the absolute bottom of the pay scale and on their feet all day, they stroll around the shop with a big smile, greeting patrons and asking others if they need anything (not that they were instructed to do but with honesty and sincerity). They stop to pick up some trash or rearrange some flowers or a table setting even though it might not necessarily be their job. They address problems head on. This person is an artist. They are giving gifts of kindness and great service to everyone they come in contact with.
The Factory Worker
Same pay scale as above. Maybe this person shows up on time, but never stays late. Rarely do they take another co-worker’s shift or offer anything additional to what it expected of them. They need to continually be told what to do. If they quit or are let go, odds are you can replace them fairly easily (providing you have a pool of other factory workers to draw from).
What we are talking about here is passion. Passion, caring and basically asking yourself the question, “How do I want to live my life? Do I want to give my all in life or just phone it in?”
Our instincts as leaders in our society of ‘factories’ is to hire cogs. People that we can plug in. In fact there are respected business books that promote this very ideal, and that seems very strange to me. These are the sorts of people that only want to show up, do their job (specific instructions provided by their supervisor) and then go home. These are undoubtedly good people, they simply don’t know that it is okay to innovate, no matter their position. It is essential that we all encourage others to innovate and to reward those who never say ‘it’s not my job.’ In considering our clients (many of them are restaurants and financial institutions that have very public faces) it occurs to me that their success is critically attached to finding and nurturing the creative spirit that is in all of us.
What makes a person indispensable? It’s the act of being creative and innovative within the atmosphere of your workplace. Thanks to all of you (our customers and my team at GP) who have made GPnet™ a success. Your innovation and creativity were not your job, but you did the work anyway. You bring passion and fresh ideas to the table daily. I love that!!
What are you doing to make your workplace one that encourages, rewards or fosters art? A good start is to read Linchpin.
VP Sales and Marketing