Cooley exemplified a fundamental principle that separates those who build great companies from those who do not – the “First Who” principle. First get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, the right people into the right seats – and then figure out where to drive the bus. Before deciding that someone is the wrong person on the bus, the best leaders we’ve studied first ask: “Do we have a bus problem or a seat problem? Do we have the right person, but perhaps in the wrong seat?” Still, that leaves the question: What makes for the right people on the bus? My research on this would suggest five generic traits:1. The right people fit the company’s core values.
Great companies build tight, almost cult-like cultures, where those who do not share the values of the institution find themselves surrounded by the antibodies and ejected like a virus. At Nucor Steel, which cultivates a core value of passionate work ethic, workers reportedly once chased a lazy teammate right out of the plant with an angle iron. People oft en ask, “How do you get people to share company’s core values?” The answer: You don’t. You instead hire those people who already have a predisposition to the core values, and hang religiously on to them.2. The right people don’t need to be tightly managed.
The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you might have made a hiring mistake. The right people don’t need to be tightly managed. Guided, taught, led – certainly, but not tightly managed. If you have the right people on the bus, you don’t need to spend a lot of time “motivating” or “managing” them. They will be productively neurotic, self-motivated and self-disciplined, compulsively driven to do the best they can because it is simply a part of their DNA.3. The right people understand that they do not have “jobs”; they have responsibilities.
Suppose an air traffic controller said, “I did all the tasks on my list right today,” but the airplanes crashed. Would his argument be valid enough? The right people grasp the difference between their task list and their true responsibilities (in this particular case getting the airplanes up and down safely). A great company cultivates a culture of discipline – composed, first and foremost, of disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and disciplined action. The cornerstone of a culture of discipline is the very idea of operating freedom within a rigorous framework of responsibilities.4. The right people display “windowand- mirror” maturity.
When things go well, the right people will point out the window to apportion credit to factors other than themselves. They shine a light on the other people who contributed to the success and choose to take little of the credit. Yet when things go awry on the other hand, they do not blame circumstances or other people for setbacks and failures. They point in the mirror and say, “I am responsible.”5. The right people have passion for the company and its work.
Nothing great happens without passion, and the right people display remarkable passion for the company and its cause. If you cannot get passionate about the company and what it does, then it’s better to leave the bus rather than to languish in a company that inspires no passion, and be engaged in work that you do not love. David Packard, founder of Hewlett- Packard, once famously said that a great company is more likely to die of indigestion of too much opportunity than starvation for too little. Our research supports Packard’s point, and leads to one irrefutable conclusion: The primary constraint on growth and success for a great company is not markets, or technology, or opportunity or capital. The greatest constraint, above all, is the ability to attract and retain enough of the right people into the key seats. What are the key seats on your bus or minibus? Do you have 100 percent of those seats filled with the right people – not 70 percent, not 80 percent, not 90 percent, but 100 percent of the key seats? If not, then you have no higher priority for now.
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Editor: Arindam Chaudhuri
Source: IIPM Publication