Accountability – Six Things to Get Right – 2. The Right Seat on the Bus
How do you put the right person in the right seat? Everyone that hires and manages wants to have the perfect fit. There are two parts to it:
- the right people and
- the right seat.
Using a strong Vision, it is possible to define both the work that needs to be done and the people that will work well together to make it happen. With so many companies and people, it is important to know what you desire – both from a company perspective and from a staff perspective. There is nothing intrinsically better about one type of company over another. A company driving to provide great value has clients that need their solutions just like a company that focuses on innovation. The people they hire, however, may not be the same ones.
With a clear vision, it is easy to explain to a potential candidate the traits you are seeking. What is not as easy is assessing the real traits of someone seeking a job. The old saying ‘hire slowly and fire quickly’ is geared towards ensuring the right people are selected. Not everyone is great at reading people and there is often intense pressure on those seeking a job to try to make themselves fit. Just like all other jobs, make sure those responsible for hiring know how to do it well. For small companies, the costs of a bad hire is so big proportionally, they must work very hard to get it right. Hire someone to help you if you can, but always take enough time to do your very best to pick the right people in the beginning.
While the vision helps to identify the right people in terms of goals and characteristics. The right seat involves the processes used to achieve the mission. Finding the right seat is about having both skills for the job and the willingness to do the job. Ideal seats match great skill with a passion for the work. Add to the right seat a person that believes and desires the company vision and you have a powerful match.
Unfortunately, there are numerous cases of great people in the wrong seat. A common example is a terrific sales person that is promoted to sales manager and totally fails. The skills needed for selling are not identical to managing a team of sales people. Learning management skills is possible, however, hence the issue is how much time and investment to make with such a transition from doing to managing.
Other factors that affect the seat selection involve management positions. Rather than doing versus managing, there are different types of management. Setting a vision, establishing resources and establishing priorities is critical for leadership. Likewise, scheduling tasks, assigning work, resolving conflicts are critical project management tasks that cannot be taken for granted. Just like the difference between selling and managing, these differences cannot be overlooked when assigning work.
One other area of seat assignment skills relates to starting versus finishing. Many jobs such as programming, engineering or business plan development have challenges that are different at the beginning of a project versus the completion. The person that can take a vague assignment for a new product or issue may be great at trying different options. This person does not have an excessive fear of failure, but rather relishes the challenge of seeking an innovative approach or solution. However, once the pathway is found, the details of making a solid solution and getting it done on time requires a lot of details, coordination and teamwork that may not fit perfectly in the same skillset. Understanding both the different challenges that occur during projects as well as the skills of those in charge is important as the seat may need a different person at different points in the journey.
There are many opinions about dealing with seat placement. Some argue that once a key person is no longer able to grow and fill new seats, then they must go. Others argue that loyalty warrants finding a seat for a proven performer. Certainly having great accountability will help to identify when a person is in the wrong seat. Having a shared vision may help that person to identify which seat is the right fit. The choice one makes will define the how or if the vision is realized.