Who’s on Board? Part I

Leadership Principle

I was once working for a very successful organization and had just been made a leader. I oversaw only a small group of people so I thought, “How hard can this be?” It turned out to be much harder than I ever could have imagined. I was younger and less experienced than everyone in the zone that I was leading, and they were all bitter because of that. I tried everything I could possibly think of to boost morale and improve results, but to no avail. The zone members were unproductive, uncoachable and even rude at times. I was incredibly frustrated (especially because I was working harder than I ever had up to that point). Then something happened that changed everything, new assignments were made by the administration and almost everyone in my zone was replaced. These new “teammates” all had about the same credentials as the previous group but there was something different, they were AWESOME! They were hardworking, respectful and coachable. It was amazing to see how all my problems disappeared overnight. Results and moral saw significant improvements and I was happier than I had been in a long time.

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great addresses this issue and calls it “getting the right people on the bus.” He argues that this is the most important thing an organization can do. In fact, the WHO is more important than WHAT the organization actually does. Some companies (like SONY for example) didn’t even know what their core business was going to be at first, they just knew who they wanted to have on the bus with them. Just as important as getting the right people on the bus, is getting the wrong people off the bus. Nothing harms an organization more than the wrong person/people on board.

Scriptural Support
We see this concept very clearly in the New Testament. When Jesus put together His “team” of disciples some of them contributed more than others. Peter, James and John were a solid force for good their entire lives. They worked hard, performed miracles and built Christianity into an incredible movement. And no one can dispute the effectiveness that Paul eventually had when he was made part of the team. Judas Iscariot, on the other hand, was less than effective. He was constantly arguing and criticizing, and eventually betrayed the whole team.

So What?
No matter where you’re working or what you’re doing it’s imperative to have the right people on your team and the wrong people off your team. Nothing will have a greater impact on the organization than the people who are a part of it.

Comments: Is this really the MOST important thing an organization can do???? Do you have any other examples of getting the right people on and the wrong people off the bus?


4 thoughts on “Who’s on Board? Part I

  1. There’s a a funny story I learned about Jim Collins from a professor who spent a year here. He was an instructor at Stanford, and he was so popular with his students that the professors fired him, basically out of jealousy. He considered a Ph.D., but was advised by at least one person not to do that, so instead he turned to writing the book you’re quoting. He’s since followed with several follow ups (I believe one to comment on the fact that at least one of the companies he labelled good is now gone). Another professor here has taught using Good to Great for years but just this semester is switching to Good by Choice. I haven’t gotten to read either, but they sound very promising.

    As for who’s on the bus, I definitely dealt with that problem. When I took over my family business, I was the youngest person by probably ten years, and less than half the average age. I had two employees who posed major morale problem. One was an assistant who resented being in such a role with her Masters in Psychology. The other was a man who just never really handled pressure well and had a habit of seeing the worst of nearly any circumstance. Within two years, I was able to help the first decide she needed to find other employment and the second to retire. Amazingly we were finally able to implement technological changes that helped the company be ready for the future. Had they stayed, it’s likely the company would’ve collapsed as they drove away numerous quality contractors and employees. Instead the company has survived through numerous changes and is setting records now, ten years later.

    • Thanks for the awesome input Robert, I especially like the insights about Jim Collins (he’s kindof a hero of mine). That’s really cool to hear about how your family business turned around. I love to hear stories like that.

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