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Right People – Right Seats, pt II


In my last blog post, I revisited the analogy shared by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great,” where he suggests that we need to get the right people on the right seats of the bus.

In this blog post, I will focus on the book “Get a Grip,” by Gino Wickman and Mike Paton, which is essentially an Entrepreneur Operating System (EOS) guide applicable to any size organization and aimed at the entrepreneurial spirit of so many business leaders.

While the title suggests getting control of your business processes, I would have titled it – and likely sold more copies! – “Get $hit Done (Well),” because that’s really the intention of the book. Unfortunately, the authors failed to ask my opinion when choosing their title. Moving on.

As business leaders, especially HR leaders, we all have methods of defining the roles we need in our organizations. Sometimes that process is very organic in the way that people take on tasks and responsibilities as they surface, while other times we can be more strategic in the role development process. In “Get a Grip,” the authors share the right people / right seat theory and give Collins credit. I am especially drawn to the process by which they suggest analyzing and developing “the right seats” for the organization.


Define Your Seats:

I’m sorry to say there is no Silver Bullet here, no hacks to ease the process. This is the work leadership teams do by rolling up their sleeves and talking it out. Key points toward the accurate and successful defining of roles or “seats” are:

Develop your Accountability Chart: Think about this as a more dynamic Org Chart, where we ensure that every major division or department has a single leader and we work diligently to have every person in the organization clearly report up to a single person. It is advised to not have anyone reporting to two or more leaders, due to the lack of clarity in accountability inherently involved. This is where leaders with employees reporting across functional lines normally defend their current structure, which brings me to the second key point …

… Question everything / no sacred cows: Everyone and every role must be questioned. The leadership team must openly enter the dialogues to see that restructuring, changing people’s seats and changing out people are possible – and even likely – outcomes of the process.

Ensure that you capture all responsibilities and seek clarity on anything not fully understood. If there are tasks or activities that are not clearly understood, work to get that understanding. Eliminate anything that does not add value by asking if the tasks, responsibilities and activities contribute to the mission and vision of the organization.

Once all requirements of the role are well defined and understood, a final analysis of “fit” of the person in the “seat” or role must be performed. This same analysis should be reviewed and performed on a regular basis because we know that like all things, change occurs in people and roles.

There are two people issues that occur:

Right person, wrong seat
Wrong person, right seat

This brings us around full circle to the “right person” requirement. Once we know that we have clearly and accurately defined the seats of the organization, we must diligently work to eliminate the above-mentioned people issues. First, we have to look at current people in current seats.

If the seat in which the person has been sitting changes, or if we simply have a clearer understanding of the seat now that we have defined it well, we must look at the fit. To do that, ask these three questions:

Does the person “Get It”?

If we’ve had some experience with the person in the seat, we can answer this one rather intuitively and quickly. We know if the person understands the role or not, and if so, how well. We also want to apply this question to the values, vision and mission of the organization. The person needs a resounding “YES, they get it” to pass this first question. If they don’t, they are not right for the seat.

Does the person “Want It”?

Just because they “Get It” doesn’t mean they really want it. This one, too, can often be answered rather intuitively if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with the possible answer. As leaders, we want people who want their seat!

Does the person have the “Capacity to do it”?

More than technical requirements, education and experience, capacity includes the energy, the right attitude and the motivation to get it done well. I like to frame this one in three pieces: Quantity, Quality and Character. Does the person get the job done well, in the right time and amount, without errors and with a delightful demeanor that makes others want to work with her? If you can answer yes to that, capacity is likely not an issue!

The hardest, and often the single, barrier to doing this work is the fear of realizing we may have to adjust someone’s role – or worse, have them leave the organization. In every case, we should look to see if there’s another seat in the organization for the right person in the wrong seat; however, letting go of the wrong people for any seat is something that ultimately serves the person and the organization.


To learn more about hiring the right people, or to determine that you have the right seats defined for the purpose of establishing and developing unstoppable teams and leaders, reach out to me or one of my colleagues at Emergent.

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