Not too long ago, I was lamenting to my amazingly clever spouse that one of our employees seemed to need more assistance than the others. Her inability to grasp the big picture was creating difficulties getting the details right. It was frustrating for her and for me. But more than that, I couldn’t figure out how to help her.
In his infinitely wise and gentle way, my spouse reminded me by saying, “She may be on the right bus, but you’ve got her in the wrong seat.” In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins explained getting the right people in your company is only half the battle. You can hire a great human being who fits the culture of your organization (getting the right people on the bus), only to find that they struggle in their job (getting the right people in the seats).
His reminder was timely and helpful. It forced me to look at my own role in our new employee’s difficulties. It’s not enough to find an employee who fits in. They also have to do their job in a way that meets the needs of the organization. In a small company, like ours, that means being able to multitask, seeing the big picture while not missing the details. It’s not enough to be a team player with a heart to serve – which is our culture. Our size requires more. We had been so focused on her fitting in culturally, that we ended up hiring someone who couldn’t really do the job required. We got the right person on the bus, but put her in the wrong seat.
Fortunately, we were able to rearrange the office in a way that used her strengths while minimizing her weakness in a way that enabled her to be successful – we switched her seat! But I have to think that the transition would have been easier for her and for us, if we’d paid better attention to both parts of the hiring equation.
Truly, as owners of companies and managers of humans, our job is to spend time making the best people decisions possible. When looking at opportunities or problems, our focus should be on the “who” part of the decision. Who is the right person for this position? Responsibility? Area of concern? If we get the “who” right, the “what” and “how” will typically take care of themselves.