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Thoughts On Gaining Traction

I wish I would have retained much more from my schooling than I did, but one lesson I got loud and clear, starting in elementary school: Readers are leaders. I have been educated by people I will never have the opportunity to learn from in person because they have had the insight and discipline to share their knowledge through books.


One book that has helped me lately is Traction by Gino Wickham. Today I want to share some thoughts I find particularly helpful from his book.


How do you know if people are in the right seats?


Ask three questions of your people: 1) Do they Get it? 2) Do they Want it? 3) Do they have the Capacity to do it? The answer to each must be a non-negotiable Yes or No. “Kind of” is not an option! When you answer these questions openly and honestly, if any one of the three questions is a No, then that person is in the wrong seat. It’s a very powerful exercise that can highlight the real issues a company may be facing.


“Do they Get it” is about a person having a deep, meaningful understanding of the seat they have been hired for. When someone gets it, they have that intuitive feel, the natural aptitude for understanding what is required to deliver. A No simply means that this position isn’t suitable for them and the company to get what it wants, and it’s time to find someone else for this seat.


“Do they Want It” is about whether the work positively motivates them on a daily basis. Can they bring their whole self to the game every day, over and over again, with enough energy to move them and the company forward at the pace you require? If this work isn’t what they truly want to do, they may find a way to do other things.


The “Capacity to do it” is four-fold. Do they have the mental, emotional, physical, and time capacity to do the job—and do it well? Mental capacity relates to their abilities and knowledge. Emotional capacity is their understanding of how “what they do” impacts others. Physical capacity relates to the amount of endurance and dexterity that is required for the seat. Time capacity is tied to the amount of days, hours, minutes, and seconds the seat will take. Capacity is the only one of the questions that can be worked on—if the business is prepared to invest the effort in doing so.


Leaders need to become very aware of the GWC implications. When a team member is misplaced, they may be self-aware and yet choose to suffer in silence until it gets so painful that they leave or are pushed out. As a leader, doing the difficult work and helping your people make the move to a “right seat” could be the difference that makes a difference for the entire team.


So, thinking about your people right now, is anyone sitting in a seat who doesn’t truly get, want, or have the capacity for what they do? If so, then what would be the impact to them, to you, and to the company if you made one people move in the next months?


The Get It, Want It, and Capacity Definitions


Get It The person understands the seat’s roles and responsibilities. The employee also understands the environment, the tone and tenor of the department, and the company vision. People either “get it” or they don’t when it comes to their role, the company culture, and the systems that are in place. While there are plenty of people who do get it, not everyone does.

Want It The person has a clear passion for the work and feels a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction in a job well done. When someone genuinely likes his or her job, it shows. They take the time to understand the role and they to do it based on fair compensation and the responsibility. If you find yourself having to beg someone to take a role, you’re going to end up with someone who doesn’t genuinely want it.


Has the Capacity to Do It They need the right level of education, certification, training, experience, and performance history to do the job today AND tomorrow. Capacity isn’t just about having the knowledge to do the job, but also the time as well as the physical and emotional capacity to do the job well. Some roles may require more hours than a person is actually willing to work each week, or it may require skills that a person simply doesn’t have. Make sure that the role suits their capacity before making a hire.


For your business to reach the next level, you must have traction. To get traction you need people on your team who are able to take the ball and run with it. When managers clearly identify a seat, including the roles, responsibilities, expectations and measurables, and create an open position, the individual who gets it will either step up and take charge from the start or never get off the ground.


If you reach a “No” on any of the above items with a particular candidate, then you’ll know that the individual isn’t the best fit for that seat. Using the GWC questions with each seat that you fill will help you stay honest with yourself about what each role really entails and will help you find the right person for the right seat.


What’s the difference between “capacity” and “get it”?


When leaders begin to use this tool, they sometimes experience confusion between “Get it” and “Capacity.” Here’s the difference. “Get it” has to do with a deep understanding of the business function and associated roles. When someone gets it, all of the neurons in his or her brain connect when it comes to functioning in the role. He or she has a feel for all of the ins and outs of the position. A No in getting it (or wanting it) is non-negotiable, and isn’t solvable. If the person doesn’t “Get it,” it’s time to find someone who does.


“Capacity” has to do with talent, skills, abilities, time, and knowledge. When someone has the Capacity, he or she is capable of doing the work that needs to be done. Sometimes a No here is solvable. While a problem of capacity can be solved, it is rare. If you believe the right person can gain the capacity and you’re willing to invest the time, resources, and energy for him or her to do so, do it.


Unfortunately, most growing organizations need the seat filled completely now and they don’t have the luxury of waiting one to three years for someone to gain the capacity. Sometimes it’s a time-capacity issue that can be solved by helping the person delegate and elevate to have enough time to do the job well.


With “Get it” and “Capacity” now clear, think about all of your people right now. Is anyone sitting in a seat who doesn’t get, want, or have the capacity to do the job? If any of the three answers is No, you must make a change. You owe it to the company and to that person.

Well, as you can see, this simple principle can make you a more effective leader. Read the book. Readers are leaders.


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