I met him at a leadership seminar put on by a large and growing for-profit company. My first impression was that he was going to be the class clown in combination with a touch of arrogance. He was sure that he had leadership all figured out. During the seminar, he was seated next to the CEO, who, after one of his answers, I thought was going to give him the proverbial dope slap based on how poor his answer was to the question.
Over the years, our paths crossed and this individual realized that he had lots to learn, and that I had lots to teach him. He listened more and spoke less. His answers improved. Meanwhile, the company grew rapidly and he entered into a more senior position
About one year after he entered the next level where he had greater responsibility and impact, the CEO contacted me for lunch. We often talked strategy and capacity over lunch, but rarely about specific people. This was the CEO’s think-out-loud time and a safe place to explore and reflect about key ideas.
At the appointed hour, we meet at the restaurant for lunch. The CEO did not even look at the menu. We went deep and fast into a "very big problem.” This particular person had become a major source of many different problems. As the CEO stated, "he is not the right person for that seat on the bus.”
For the last nine months, CEOs, EDs, COOs, EVPs, and Regional VPs have all talked with me in private about the importance of having the right people in the right seats on the bus. For them, it has become mission critical to success. This is not a one time comment and is a serious statement reflecting hours of thought and reflection.
For us here today, this phrase about the “right people on the right seats on the bus” comes from the book Good to Great. Before then, there were no seats and no bus, just people issues. Still, it is a great metaphor .
Early on there was little clarification of the concept, then the book, How The Mighty Fall, was published and Jim Collins gave us more details to the concept. As he wrote: “What makes for the “Right People” in key seats?
- the right people fit with the company’s core values.
- the right people don’t need to be tightly managed.
- the right people understand that they do not have “jobs”; they have responsibilities.
- the right people fulfill their commitments.
- the right people are passionate about the company and its work.
- the right people display “window and mirror” maturity.
This week, reflect on the above list and ask yourself the question: Do I have the right people on the right seats on the bus? It is worth the time and energy to think about the answer to this important question.