Who are the right people in our key positions?

Excerpt from How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins

The right people fit with the company’s core values. Great companies build almost cult like cultures, where those who do not share the institution’s values find themselves surrounded by antibodies and ejected like a virus. People often ask “How do we get people to share our core values?” the answer: you don’t. You hire people who already have the predisposition to your core values and you hang on to them.

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. If you have the right people you don’t need to spend a lot of time “managing” them. They will be productively neurotic, self-motivated and self-disciplined, compulsively driven to do the best they can because it’s simply part of their DNA.

The right people understand that they do not have “jobs” They have responsibilities. They grasp the difference between their task list and their true responsibilities. The right people can complete the statement “I am the one person ultimately responsible for ….”

The right people fulfill their commitments: In a culture of discipline, people view commitments as sacred- they do what they say, without complaint. Equally, this means that they take great care in saying what they will do, careful to never over commit or to promise what they cannot deliver.

The right people are passionate about the company and its work. Nothing great happens without passion and the right people display remarkable intensity.

The right people display “window and mirror” maturity. When things go well, the right people point out the window, giving credit to factors other than themselves, they shine a light on the other people who contribute to the success and take little credit for themselves. Yet when things go awry, they do not blame circumstances or other people; they look in the mirror and ask what they could have done differently in that situation to create a different outcome.

Wyman’s note: We have all seen companies that have the ability to attract these employees at all levels of their organization. I try to think about this list often, constantly judging myself to see how I stack up. Think about how you spend your day; how do you stack up to this list? How do those around you stack up? Number six reminds me of a quote from Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant, legendary football coach at the University of Alabama. When asked how he was able to consistently win year after year, he replied, “If anything goes well you did it, if anything goes semi-good we did it, if anything goes bad I did it; that is all that it takes to get people to win football games for you.” He also famously said, after being congratulated on a national title, “Don’t congratulate me, I didn’t play a single down.” After a tough loss though he was always quick to accept responsibility for it.



Here are a couple other great quotes from Jim Collins:

“The waterline principle: Think of being on a ship, and imagine that any decision gone bad will blow a hole in the side of the ship. If you blow a hole above the waterline (where the ship won’t take on water and possibly sink) you can patch the hole, learn from the experience and still sail on. But if you blow a hole below the waterline, you can find yourself facing gushers of water pouring in, and pulling you toward the ocean floor.”

The idea here is that as the leader you distinguish between the decision above the waterline vs below the water line. On the decisions that come up above the water line you need to allow your team as much autonomy as possibly to make decisions, this will help get team buy in, encourage the team to try new ways of doing things, be innovative, and make the job their own. When it comes to decisions below the water line that have the potential to sink the ship make sure you as the leader are involved in those decisions, still get your teams input and listen to their thoughts but ultimately you have to take that feedback and make the decision.

“Gerstner’s Philosophy: The right leaders feel a sense of urgency in good times and bad, whether facing threat or opportunity, no matter what. They’re obsessed, afflicted with creative compulsion and inner drive for progress – burning hot coals in the stomach-that remain constant whether facing threat or not”