04 November 2010

Linchpin: Who will you call?

Are you a "Linchpin" in your organization? The person who people may call the "Fixer", "Troubleshooter" or just plain "Rainmaker". Are you considered to be a combination of all three and indispensable? By now hundreds of thousands of people have read Seth Godin's book, Linchpin: Are you Indespensable and are well on their way to becoming more self-aware of their position within their organization. Are you just following instructions or are you a leader or an artist in your industry or company?

Operational Risk Management Executives may know who in the organization are considered "Linchpins". If they don't now then it's time to learn who they are and why. Some of these people may even be outside the formal organization and it's imperative that you know who they are as well. Why? Because when the next incident makes itself visible or the Emergency Management Broadcast System breaks into the TV or Radio show you're listening to, then you will know the correct "Linchpin" to deal with the risk category before you.

So who are some good examples of Linchpins? The people who get the call to handle the problem, issue or opportunity in their particular category or area of subject matter expertise:

Thad William Allen (born January 16, 1949) is a retired United States Coast Guard admiral who served as the 23rd Commandant of the Coast Guard. Allen is best known for his widely-praised[1][2][3] performance directing the federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Gulf Coast region from September 2005 to January 2006.

Following his position as commandant, Allen continued to serve on active duty for 36 days in his role as National Incident Commander of the Unified Commandfor the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Allen officially retired from the U.S. Coast Guard on June 30, 2010, but continues to serve as a civilian as the National Incident Commander of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He is a senior executive on the staff of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.[4]


Edward Bennett Williams (May 31, 1920–August 13, 1988) was a Washington, D.C. trial attorney who founded the law firm of Williams & Connolly and owned several professional sports teams.He represented many high profile clients, including Frank Sinatra, financier Robert Vesco,Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, spy Igor Melekh, Jimmy Hoffa, organized crime figure Frank Costello, U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, corporate raider Victor Posner, Michael Milken, the Washington Post newspaper and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.


Lara Logan (born 29 March 1971) is a South African television and radiojournalist and war correspondent. She is currently the Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for CBS News, 60 Minutes correspondent, filing reports for theCBS Evening News and the CBS Radio Network. In late January 2007, Logan filed a report about fighting along Haifa Street in Baghdad.[4] When CBS News refused to run the report on the nightly news because the footage was "a bit strong"[5] (although the network did run the report on their internet site), Logan tried to win public support to reverse this decision.

Marissa Ann Mayer (born on 30 May 1975) is the vice president of geographic and local services [3] at the search engine company Google. She acts as a gatekeeper for their product release process, determining when or whether a particular Google product is ready to be released to users. She has become one of the public faces of Google, providing a number of press interviews and appearing at events frequently to speak on behalf of the company.[4]

Each one of these people at their respective organizations has been a "Linchpin" at a particular moment in history with the following characteristics articulated by Seth Godin in his latest book:

  • Charm
  • Talent
  • Perseverance

Seth does a great Venn Diagram on page 43 of his book that describes those who may have only two out of these three traits or areas of competency. If you only have Charm and Talent then you are a Prodigy. If you have Charm and Perseverance then you are a Princess. If you have Talent and Perseverance without Charm then this is pure Frustration. Yet if you have all three, then you are a Linchpin. Now think about the people you know in your organization who have all three. These are the Linchpins that you want to know and you want to have at the tip of your call list.

Operational Risk Management that is effective and responsive may require the Linchpin to handle a dire situation or rectify a dispute or investigate an allegation or discover the right balance of art and science.

The road to becoming indispensable may begin with some DNA yet it is something that almost every human can aspire to become. Search out the people in your organization who are Operational Risk Linchpins and find out a way to have them start teaching your most promising students on how to achieve greater levels of charm, talent and perseverance.

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