Hire the right talent and let them run the business

Jim Collins once said, “Get the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus.” Simply put – hire the right talent and let them run the business.

The famed American business consultant, and author of Good to Great, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall, believes that business is like a bus with direction and passengers who affect the journey. Hire the right talent and they will keep it going.  While ‘bad’ talent create reasons for it to stop.

But to hire the right talent, you need first to define “who” they are. When making strategic partnerships with new people you should always ask the “who’s” and “why’s.” Choosing the right people will inevitably create the why.

The right talent will create plans and support your work. With the right talent on the bus, you need to be sure that they’re sitting in the right seats. The driver of the bus is the head or leader of a company. They leaders keep the organization moving forward, but they are not always directly involved and often need to rely on others input to who comes and goes off the bus.

Eventually, the people on the bus self-select, and in comes discipline. When the right talent is on the bus in the right seats, and doing the right things, they are disciplined. There is no longer the heavy reliance on managers monitoring task by task and movement by movement.  The concepts you hear about so often come to life with autonomy, accountability, and ownership.

Hire the right talent: Disciplined people with disciplined thought

While researching for his book Good to Great, Jim Collins found “disciplined people who engaged in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action.” The first thing he noticed in his work was disciplined, people. A successful company doesn’t know which direction they are going until they have the right people on the on the bus, and in key seats, and the wrong people off. Once they have that sorted out, only then can they divert attention to the question of where will they drive the bus.

A key finding in his research is that some of the best executives interviewed by Collins would first ask about the “who”, and then about “what”. They wouldn’t plan the future until they had the best people, and only then would they think about moving forward. They would start by finding the right talent to hire smaller subdivisions, like the head of strategy, head of tactics, head of technology, and so on. Only after getting the right staff on the bus, they would get the bus moving.

“First who, then what,” says Jim Collins.

Hire the right talent: David Maxwell’s bus ride

A great example of asking who before what is when David Maxwell took over the reins of Fannie Mae as CEO in 1981. When Maxwell stepped in, the mortgage loan company was closing a million US dollars every business day and had $56 billion worth of mortgage loans underwater.

The first thing the board wanted to know from Maxwell was how he planned to save the company. He responded by telling them that the “what” question was the wrong question. To know where the bus was going to go, he said he needed the right people on board.

He started by telling his management team that it was going to be a tough and demanding trip, and there would only be seats on the bus for A-level individuals who were committed to delivering A-level effort. If they couldn’t handle it, they would be allowed to get off the bus; no questions asked. After interviewing all of them, 14 out of 26 executives left to be replaced by some of the smartest and hardworking individuals in the financial world.

After Maxwell had got the right people on the bus, in the right seats, he was finally able to answer the “what” question. With the help of his determined team, Maxwell was able to bring in $4 million a day in earnings at the end of his tenure.

Because the business world changes at such a fast rate, you may face situations along the road causing you to change direction. If the people on the bus are only there because they need a ride, they’ll have trouble adjusting to the new passage. But if they’re there solely there because of the other great people, ideas on the bus and they believe in where it is going; they’ll be more adaptive and responsive to new conditions.

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