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Right People – Right Seats, pt 1


Right People – Right Seats: This post is the first of two related posts. Here we’ll take on the “Right People” and in my next post, we’ll discuss “The Right Seats.”

Part I: Right People

The title of this post may remind you of one of the more widely known analogies of getting the right people in the right seats “on the bus” made popular by Jim Collins in his book, “Good to Great.”

Collins’ analogy suggests that the “bus” is your organization or team and the “seats on the bus” are the roles and responsibilities of each position. Collins suggested that leaders should ask “First who and then what” as a way to test and ensure that we have the most suitable person in the right roles and positions for the organization. “Who is right for this task?” before “What should we do?” is the essence of Collins’ advice.

Often leaders begin in a less effective place with this effort; as a recovering HR professional, I too fell victim to the common trap of valuing education, experience and technical skills first in my screening and performance management processes. And while education, experience and technical skills are important, we often experience a type of myopia in our hiring and selection process and miss focusing on more important attributes of a great employee and new hire. We also miss these same criteria in our performance management processes of existing employees – where the pain of realizing a mis-fit is greater than not inviting someone onto the bus in the first place.

And we do the same when we design the seats (roles, positions, jobs, etc.) we’re seeking to fill. We stick to what we know and fail to innovate or be creative in designing the roles and responsibilities potentially unique to our own organizations, while continually relying on traditional models.

This begs the questions: if it’s not about focusing on the right hard skills first (education, experience and technical skills), where do we start?

Where we are best served in an “elimination” mindset is by first screening out the individuals who are not aligned with the organizational and team culture, values and mission. No matter the hard skills present, the people not aligned to culture, values and mission should not be offered a seat … and if they are an existing employee, they should likely be invited off the bus.

If we can shift the initial screening process from simply having the right hard skills to opening the gate for those with the hard skills and those who demonstrate the aptitude and potential for the hard skills, we open the process for more success.

Getting the right people is the single most significant effort you can make to take care of the people issues in your organization, and it all starts with using your core values and emotional intelligence (EI).

  1. Using the core values means creating screening tools that provide assurance that people will regularly and consistently demonstrate the behavioral competencies your core values demand. This is the “stake in the ground” where the need for compromise and accommodations becomes a deal breaker. We may be tempted to trade excellent technical skills, talent or experience for the right attitude and alignment with core values, and we have likely made this transaction more than once before … but I would suggest that you assess your current challenges and issues with your people. More often than not, you will discover that alignment with core values is the cause.
  2. The EI quotient separates average (or less) contributors from those that excel in their work with others, in teams and with self-regulation and relationship management. With so few roles working purely independently or isolated from others, EI becomes an essential bundle of abilities and skills we must have in our organizations.

We cannot always detect the misalignment at the time of hiring, and contrary to some beliefs, core values can and do change in people and organizations. The adaptability and flexibility offered by higher EI allows change in the organization to be more effectively navigated.

The regular application of core values and EI in performance management processes is key in exposing and managing values-based, self-awareness and relational issues in the workplace. Despite our fear of facing the sometimes required separation of an existing employee, often these challenges can be addressed and coached back into alignment -preserving the culture and re-establishing

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