How do I know we have the right people on the bus?

Chris Hutchinson
Jul 12, 2019 · 4 min read

We hear this question a lot. Thanks to the popularity of Jim Collins’ Good to Great book and his signature finger pointing, leaders everywhere wonder if they have the right people on the bus.

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As a leader, sometimes you inherit the team that is and sometimes you get to pick the team members you want. Regardless, there nearly always comes a point where leaders wrestle who they’ve got in the seats: “Should so-and-so should stay on the bus or be let off at the next review cycle — or maybe we could slow down enough to open that little emergency exit door in the back…”

I attended a meeting with Jim in Fort Collins a few years back when a brave soul asked him: “How do I know we have the right people on this bus?”

The answer Jim gave is etched* into my mind, and we’ve applied it to our company ever since with excellent results.

Let me bring you back with me to the conversation:

Jim answered “Oh, that’s pretty simple,” and held up one hand, extending a finger for each point:

“Values, will, and skill.”

Jim’s Number One: “Values. Have no patience for a values mismatch.”

My heart sunk a bit as I realized we had a team member who had great intentions yet whose values were grating with me and the rest of the team. I mentally noted to sit down and figure out how to explore how compatible our values were — and weren’t — as soon as practical.

Jim then pointed to his extended second finger.

Jim’s Number Two: “Will. Have a little patience here.”

In the moment, I painfully realized another person left the previous year because I didn’t realize they didn’t have the willingness to do the tough work our company needed in that role. I assumed will was there — until I couldn’t miss it wasn’t. I made mental note to explore potential hires’ willingness as early and extensively as we could.

Jim then extended and pointed to his third finger.

Jim’s Number Three: “Skill. If you have the first two, you can probably train for the third.”

I just let that sink in. Number three made sense.

“Which brings me to what most companies do…”

“They hire for skill, hope for willingness…and fire for values. The best companies hire the other way around — value, will, and skill — in that order.

I winced inwardly as I could feel the accuracy of his assessment. Right there, I determined to do all we could to hire and support our team members in values, will, and skill order.

I can’t say we’ve implemented Jim’s advice perfectly. Yet, the successes we’ve had over the last few years can be tied directly to:

  • getting clear first about shared values and how we’re living them out together
  • supporting one another through doing the hard work needed to find and partner with clients, and
  • honing and sharing learning to build our collective skills for our clients and each other.

I hope this helps answer your question. I can’t think of anyone better than Jim to answer it.

We love being able to rely on Jim’s expertise and proven track-record. If his three-prong answers leave you with more questions about how to change your approach with your team, or if you’ve gotten clarity on hard things that need to happen next, let’s talk.

The Startup

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Chris Hutchinson

Written by

Helping leaders and teams get lasting results since 2002 www.trebuchetgroup.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

Chris Hutchinson

Written by

Helping leaders and teams get lasting results since 2002 www.trebuchetgroup.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +756K people. Follow to join our community.

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