Have you heard the mantra, “Get the right people in the right seat of the bus”?
I have many times, but in “Good to Great” author Jim Collins quotes this from a slightly different angle: Get the right people in the right seat of the bus FIRST.
“The main point is to first get the right people on the bus — and the wrong people off the bus — before you figure out where to drive it,” wrote Collins.
The “who” questions come before settling on vision and strategy, before deciding what specific direction you’re headed. That’s what Collins argues is one of the keys in taking a company from good to great. It all comes down to the people and focusing on getting the right ones first. Once you do, no matter where you’re headed, the right people will head there with you.
Collins shared an anecdote from Walter Bruckart, the vice president of Circuit City during its good-to-great years. “Bruckart then recalled a conversation with CEO Alan Wurtzel during a growth spurt at Circuit City: ‘Alan, I’m really wearing down trying to find the exact right person to fill this position or that position. At what point do I compromise?’ Without hesitation, Alan said, ‘You don’t compromise. We find another way to get through until we find the right people.’”
I know it can be scary to have a position open for a long time — I’ve seen that play out in my own company. It can be scary and a lot of work. You can feel swamped and overwhelmed. However, I’ve also witnessed what hiring the wrong person can do to a culture and organization because you needed someone for the spot.
“Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people, as they inevitably find themselves compensating for the inadequacies of the wrong people,” wrote Collins. “Worse, it can drive away the best people. Strong performers are intrinsically motivated by performance. When they see their efforts impeded by carrying extra weight, they eventually become frustrated.”
I’ve also watched us fill positions with the right people, though it took over a year to find them. Like Wurtzel mentioned, we found another way to get through until the right person was found. It was hard, but worth the wait.
So what does this all mean? Well, it means that your team and those you hire are essential to your success. It means you need to get the right person in the right seat of the bus before you can start driving anywhere.