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1. Linchpin, Are You Indispensable?,” Seth Godin, 2010, Penguin Books, 244pp.

2. Idem,“Linchpin, Are You Indispensable?,” Seth Godin, 2010, Penguin Books, page 194.

3. “The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Bing Things in Motion,” John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, Basic Books, New York, 2010, pp 73 and 87.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, President of MasteryWorks, is a leading career development authority providing solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Sprint, Lockheed-Martin, and Capitol One. MasteryWorks provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than 30 years, Dr. Farren has been a tireless advocate around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate by more than a decade, when she published the book, “Who is Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. Her strategic approach consistently delivers on employee engagement and retention goals for her clients

Contact Tom Karl, Executive Vice President for more information - or (703) 256-5712.

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Building a Culture of Remarkable People in 2011
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.


We all know that being different or having different ideas comes with a price tag.
Next year’s goal: to build a culture of remarkable people. When you attach the word, “remarkable” to people, it somehow resonates far more powerfully than words like “talent,” or phrases like “key contributors” or “high performers.” I have an emotional reaction to the word. It inspires and makes me wonder if I can be remarkable? Or am I already?

I watched the “CNN Heroes Awards” on Thanksgiving evening and saw ten remarkable people, each in their own way, changing the lives of many others for the better. For example, a tiny little woman, Anuradha Koirala from Nepal, who saved the lives of 12,000 children from sex trafficking won the “Hero of The Year Award” based on the votes of more than 2 million people. Like all of the “CNN Heroes,” she doesn’t consider herself a remarkable person or even a hero. She simply saw a desperate need and acted on it with passion and persistence. You can see her extraordinary story at:

Remarkable People Take Charge of Their Lives
Take a page from the CNN heroes. They listened to their hearts, shook off naysayers and took the path less traveled to achieve their dreams. The most remarkable CNN heroes were clearly captivated by a vision of finding a way to help others. They saw something that cried out for them to fix; something many others knew about, but did little or nothing to change. CNN Heroes clearly saw the problem and then passionately persevered to help one person at a time.
Remarkable people are passionate about their dreams and ideas. They take risks and use their jobs, skills and education as a platform to help others. Like so many remarkable people we read about in the newspapers, the CNN Heroes did not receive support from their workplace. They had to establish their own organizations or non-profits to make their vision come true. Why is that? Does your organization reward complacency or resist change?

Remarkable cultures start with remarkable people, perhaps remarkable leaders. What kind of people does your organization reward? People who basically meet their objectives? Or people who ask “why do we” or “why don’t we” questions?” Although these questions often lead to remarkable products and services, they also fuel remarkable change. Change is not the enemy. Resisting change is far more dangerous to an organization than accepting change. Do you reward the “change making remarkable people?”

Three Kinds of Remarkable People
In preparing for a talk recently on “How to Keep Your Key Contributors,” I read Seth Godin’s book, “Linchpin.”[1] He uses two words that caught my attention – “remarkable and indispensable.” There’s no more fascinating or more emotional way to think about talent. The more I read Seth Godin’s book, which is a must read, the more I began to see there are three different kinds of remarkable people: 1)High Performers; 2) Linchpins and 3) People on the Edge. All are remarkable. However, I’m not sure that we have reinforced and rewarded the latter two since most of our performance discussions and career conversations have been limited to performance issues and facilitating future career choices. I believe the most successful organizations contain a generous helping of all three kinds of remarkable people. We’ll define each and briefly discuss how you can reinforce remarkable people in your organization.

1) High Performers
High Performers excel at doing their job. They are job-focused. They meet and exceed the specs over and over. They can be counted on to go the extra mile, meet deadlines and bring value to the business. We usually put them in the highest quartile in our succession planning discussions. They possess high potential and are often discussed for leadership positions.

2) Linchpins
Linchpins not only do their job, they take care of the system. They are system focused. They see where others need help and step in. They bring emotional energy and support to their teams. They don’t have job boundaries. They see the whole project or the whole organization as their domain and do whatever is necessary to keep things humming along. People come to them for help, advice, expertise, etc. They are the informal leaders of the system. Linchpins are the oil and grease that keeps an organization’s wheels turning.

3) People at the Edge
These are the people who see what’s missing. They focus on the future. They are always asking the “why do we” and the ‘why don’t we” questions. They see the trends and want to shape the future by developing new processes, systems, products, and services. They are the innovators and dreamers. They are the links that bridge present reality and future greatness. The CNN heroes are all People at the Edge. They each saw pressing needs, - Vets with no homes to return to, landmines killing and maiming children in Cambodia, released women prisoners without a family or any other support system. They visualized solutions and worked to fill the need. Their passion electrified others around them to lend their hands and take on the problems.

Which Kind of Person Are You?
In the talk I gave to around 200 people, 70% of the people believed they were high performers, about 25% said they were Linchpins, and 5% or less thought they were People on the Edge. Only eight or nine people in the entire room were focused on the future. What an anomaly! We live and work in a global race in the fastest changing decade of all time where the finish line constantly is being moved and stretched out ahead of us. How can we compete in this rapidly changing economy with a ratio of less than 5% of the workforce bridging the present reality to a better future? What can we do about this?

How Can You Be Remarkable?
There is no half way to being remarkable. Being slightly remarkable doesn’t work. Seth Godin writes that “You can either fit in or not. Not both. You are either defending the status quo or challenging it. Either you are embracing the drama of your everyday life or you are seeing the world as it could be. These are all choices; you can’t have it both ways.”[2]

You need to stand up and stand out in order to be remarkable. Stop looking vertically at each assignment or job as an isolated set of tasks and start looking laterally. Look around you and see what is going on. Be human, Always be willing to go the extra mile for others. Be generous with your time, skills and knowledge. Build a broad base of knowledge through networking. Share yourself willingly with others when asked. Volunteer your help when appropriate. Interact and contribute to making a difference by helping others without any strings attached.

Networking is essential; interact with as many people as possible. No matter whether you are a high-performer, linchpin or person on the edge, you need to have access to resources – especially people – in order to be remarkable. In the “Power of Pull, etc.,” Hagel, Brown and Davison write, “There are a lot more smart people outside of any particular company than within it…Flexible access to people and resources can be enormously powerful in a world driven by changes… If we do not master the ability to access people and resources as needed, we will risk becoming progressively marginalized...”[3]

Last of all, be flexible in your thinking, but don’t be afraid to make decisions. Take risks even though you know others may be critical or the consequences even far worse. You’ll feel fear; acknowledge it and then put it on the back burner. You might be pleasantly surprised when you pitch an idea and lend your insight to a project. Then cement a consensus to gain support. See TED, Go to, Seth Godin,

How Can Managers and Organizations Build a Culture of Remarkable People?
Remarkable managers can spot passion a mile away. Leaders do not fear change; they welcome change and embrace it. Leaders and organizations need to support an environment where people ask questions and challenge the status quo and where good managers foster critical thinking and push employees to stand out and exhibit their passion. Successful organizations support educational programs, create a work environment that is free from distraction, such as company politics or only profit considerations. The most successful organizations give employees freedom to persevere in their own projects and reward employees for their remarkable achievements. This year, don’t advise people how to fit in and get the job done. Push them to stand out and become a hero.

The goal this new year is to create a remarkable culture in the workplace. Remarkable cultures start with remarkable people. I believe there are three kinds of remarkable people: 1)High Performers, people who are job focused and excel at their jobs, 2) Linchpins, who are system focused, doing their own job while caring for the system, and 3) People on the Edge, who focus on the future and bridge the present and the future. Leaders and organizations need to support people who stand out, ask questions and challenge the status quo. Good managers foster critical thinking and push employees to stand out to exhibit their passions. Remarkable employees see what’s going on around them. They’re generous with their time, skills and knowledge. They build a broad base of knowledge through networking. No matter whether you are a high-performer, linchpin or person on the edge, you need to have access to resources – especially people – in order to be remarkable.

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