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My intent here was to finish my “People” series with this post. It seems that the relationship between ownership, management and the rank and file is just too complex to cover- even as lightly as I’ve covered it- in three posts. This post covers having the right people- the next one will be about putting them in the right positions.
n his seminal work “Good To Great,” Jim Collins draws a parallel between a business and a bus- as it relates to employees. To correctly load the bus, the first thing is to get all the right people on. The second is to get the wrong ones off. The third thing is to get the people you’ve chosen to stay with you into the right seats.
There’s an acronym used in Gino Wickman’s EOS Worldwide- RPRS. Right people, right seats. As with most profound concepts, it’s simple. Like determining vision, it’s simple- but not easy.
First of all, what does it mean to have the right people on the bus? Who are these “right people?” People we like? People we can relate to? People who think like us? If so, what does that do to diversity of thought and how it can round out our teams so our creations aren’t one-dimensional? To correctly answer this question, we have to know what is important to us and our company. We have to identify those things that make up the foundation of our company culture, and hire, reward, promote and fire based on them. There are many different names for these things. I like the name Gino came up with- core values.
How do we know what our core values are? There are exercises that can bring them out. Jack Welch in his book “Winning” says it’s an exercise ALL employees should be involved in, and in his scenario, it lasts an extended amount of time. In the EOS model, it’s an exercise that’s done by the leadership team, and lasts a few hours. Either can work- the important thing is that the values are found and documented.
Notice I said “found”, not “decided.” These values are already part of your culture. The exercises undertaken- if done so with the thought that we’re going to decide what our core values are, are worthless. The values you come up with in that scenario are aspirational- or "I wish we had them"- not based on reality. To truly find your values, the intent must be to bring them out, not make them up.
It’s a little more difficult with new hires, as we don’t know them yet- nor have we seen them work. Thoughts, values, emotions and morals are shown through action. In looking at prospective new-hires, it’s helpful to look at their past work history through this lens. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but may show some of their leanings. With existing employees, it’s easier to accurately use the values filter- they have a track record with us. If extreme customer service is one of your core values and you have an employee who continually angers customers, that’s a pretty vivid sign of a values clash. If things don’t change, that person should be let off at the nearest bus stop.
There are different opinions on how many values there should be for any given company. The EOS recommendation is 3-7. Many have a lot more than that. My opinion is simpler is better, but the number of them you have in your company is ultimately up to you. The important thing is that they actually MEAN something, and that they are useful. If you can’t judge if someone is living one of your values at work, it probably isn’t worth much.
If they’re angering the other employees due to lack of teamwork, selfishness, arrogance, being demanding, pushiness, or other issues, it can bring down the morale so far that it starts to affect the others’ ability to perform. How many times have you worked with “that guy/gal” who no one can stand? What would you have done to not have to work with that person?
So find the core values of your company and use them to make employee decisions. In addition to helping you gain clarity around employee decisions, you’ll be able to more clearly articulate what your company culture is as well as connect with your leadership team and other employees in doing the exercise. You’ll finally know why certain well-performing employees irk you and make you wish you had an excuse to let THEM off the bus. Let them off- you'll be able to keep all those people worth keeping.
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