This past week was the NFL draft, and now draft grades are coming out for each team. The great teams and those who consistently contend for a championship are those who do well in the draft. Each team’s leadership must do a good job of evaluating their team’s needs and the talent that is available, drafting players who will strengthen the overall team. Jim Collins in his book Good to Great refers to this as the bus principle. Operating in this manner requires tremendous courage and honesty. But your organization will never be able to reach its full potential unless you are fully committed to the rigorous challenge of honestly looking at your overall organization and what it needs to move forward.
Collins says to do this you must …
1. Get the right people on the bus.
Leaders must be rigorous in the selection process for getting new people on the bus. Invest substantial time in evaluating each candidate and make systematic use of at least three evaluation devices (e.g., interviews, references, background, testing, etc.). If you have doubts, do not bring the person on the bus. It is far better to let a seat go unfilled—taking on extra work as needed—until you have found the right person. As the leader you must ensure that your company works hard to retain the right people on the bus.
2. Get the right people in the right seats.
Have 100% of the key seats on the bus filled with the right people. This doesn’t mean 100% of ALL seats have the right people, but 100% of the key seats. If you think there might be a significant “wrong” person, give the person the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he or she is in the wrong seat. Whenever possible, give a person the chance to prove himself or herself in a different seat before concluding that he or she is a wrong person on the bus.
3. Get the wrong people off the bus.
Once you know you need to make a people change, a leader needs to be rigorous but not ruthless in the decision. Help people exit with dignity and grace. That will ensure that the vast majority of people who leave your bus will have positive feelings about your organization. When you do make a hiring mistake, “autopsy” those mistakes. Make sure you learn the lessons and apply what you have learned to future hiring decisions.
4. Put who before what.
When confronted with any problem or opportunity, shift the decision from a “what” question (“What should we do?”) into a “who” decision (“Who would be the right person to take responsibility for this?”). Spend significant time on people decisions: Get the right people on the bus, get the right people in the right seats, get the wrong people off the bus, develop people into bigger seats, plan for succession, etc. Great leaders will develop a disciplined, systematic process for getting the right people on the bus. It’s important that each year, the percentage of good people decisions continues to rise.
When your bus is filled with the right people in the right seats, the question is no longer “Where are we headed?”, but “How far can we go?”
Of course, if we are leaders worth following ourselves, we want to be first-round picks ourselves. Jack Welch was one of the world’s most respected and celebrated business leaders of all time. Forbes Magazine coined him the “CEO of CEOs.” Under his leadership as chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001, the company’s value rose 4,000%. And during that time, Jack built one of the most successful Human Resource departments the world has ever seen. He used a very “simple” framework to evaluate talent; a framework still being used today based on the following five traits: energy, an ability to energize, edge, an ability to execute, and passion—more commonly referred to as the “4Es and a P” of leadership. Welch tells us the qualities of a first rounder.
ENERGY: “Energy is the ability to go, go, go–-to thrive on action and relish change. People with positive energy are generally extroverted and optimistic. They make conversation and friends easily. They’re people who don’t complain about working hard—they love to work. They also love to play and overall just love life.” Ask yourself: Do I bring energy as a manager to my team every day, all day?
ENERGIZE: This is the ability to get others revved up. People who energize can inspire their team to take on the impossible—and enjoy doing it. The ability to energize is apparent in someone with an in-depth knowledge of their business, who sets a powerful personal example, and has strong persuasion skills.” Ask yourself: Do people want to work for me?
EDGE: “Having edge means having the courage to make tough “yes or no” decisions. Smart people can assess a situation from every angle–-but smart people with edge know when to stop assessing and make a tough call, even without all the information.” Ask yourself: Do I know when to make the gut call?
EXECUTE: “Being able to execute means having the ability to get the job done. It turns out a person can have positive energy, energize everyone around them, make hard calls, and still not get over the finish line. Being able to execute is a unique and distinct skill. It means the person knows how to put decisions into action and push them forward to completion, through resistance, chaos, or unexpected obstacles. People who can execute know that winning is about results.” Ask yourself: Do I continually drive results both personally and for my team?
PASSION: “People with passion have a heartfelt, deep, authentic excitement about work. They care—really care in their bones–-about colleagues, employees, and friends. They love to learn and grow, and they get a huge kick out of people around them doing the same.” Ask yourself: Do I bring an intense enthusiasm toward all aspects of my life?
You can be a great leader and lead an amazing team. Develop the qualities of a first rounder yourself, and then recruit a team of the right people in the right places.