Who's On Your Bus?

Most business leaders feel that the vision and mission of the company is all important.  They determine “what” they need to accomplish and then determine “who” should be part of their team to help them get there. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, observed that great companies identified the “who” first and secondarily figured out “what” they needed to accomplish. The problem with starting with the “what” is that when things change, as they are inevitably going to do, you realize you have the wrong people on your bus. The bus needs to change direction and the people on your bus are either unfamiliar with or unwilling to take a new route. When you start with the “who,” when things change, it doesn’t matter. Those people are there because of the team they are part of not because of the direction the bus is going in. They will adapt and be self-motivated. If you have the wrong people on your bus how clear and articulate your vision is means little. A great vision with the wrong people will get you mediocre results at best. Here’s how Jim Collins puts it in his book . . . ”first get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, the right people in the right seats, and then figure out where to drive it.”

So, how do you start getting the right people on the bus? Here’s what most small businesses experience.  You’re looking to hire an employee. You determine what skills are necessary to fill an opening or expand your team. You filter through a number of resumes and pick a couple of candidates. You’ve been very specific as to the skills you are looking for and these resumes fill that need. You interview some candidates even having some other employees interview for second opinions. You make a selection. Months later you are picking up the pieces of the new hire that you have just let go. What went wrong? You thought you covered all your bases. Yet the person wasn’t the right fit.

Most employers focus on KSA’s, commonly known as Knowledge, Skills and Ability.  Consciously and unconsciously, they start with the “What.” They have determined what they need, now it’s just a matter of finding the person with the right KSA”s to fill that role. The problem is the person with the best KSA’s isn’t always the right person. What most neglect to consider is the belief system of the individual. Their personality traits. What does this person stand for? Will they work well with the people I currently have working for me? Do they have similar core values as the team and as I do?

How do you identify those traits beyond KSA’s? Well, one thing to consider is pre-employment personality testing. This will identify those who might have the right KSA’s and even have great interview skills but won’t succeed in the organization you currently have due to personality conflicts.  In addition, check their history beyond their given references. Call their previous employer, the schools they attended, maybe even some mutual acquaintances that might give you a more accurate assessment of the individual.  In the interview ask questions that will reveal their character not just the skills they possess.

While you are hiring the right people don’t forget to consider stopping your bus and letting some that aren’t the right fit off your bus. Far too often I see business owners procrastinate when it comes to letting people off the bus. By no means is it a comfortable thing to do. But don’t dig yourself deeper. Not only can the wrong people not give you the results you want, in many cases, they can impact the rest of your team. Stop your bus now and let them off. They will cause you nothing but grief down the road.

So surround yourself with the right people. Then start driving toward your goals and watch how those around you will help you get there. You’ll be surprised sometimes how easy it is. To quote Jack Welch – "If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings— and put compensation as a carrier behind it— you almost don't have to manage them."