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The Right People In The Right Seats

No one builds a business by themselves. For a company to grow and be successful, it needs to have the right people guiding it along. That’s why successful business owners are always surrounded by smart and capable people.
But finding smart and capable people is only the first step. For a company to truly thrive, the people it employs must be a good fit for their job. That means putting the right person in the right seat.
It’s entirely possible for someone to be a strong worker with a critical mind, but have their talents and abilities wasted because they’re doing the wrong job.
This is an idea that has been touted by the likes of Jim Collins in his book Good to Great and Gino Wickman in his book Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business.
As Wickman says, The right people are folks who share your company’s core values. They both fit into and thrive within your company culture. They should be people you enjoy being around and who make your organization a better place.
The right seat, on the other hand, means that “each of your employees is working within his or her area of greatest skill and inside your organization.” It also means that the roles and responsibilities they are tasked with are complemented by their own unique skillset.
In the book, Unique Ability, Catherine Nomura, Julia Waller, and Shannon Waller explain that everyone has a Unique Ability® (“Unique Ability®” is a trademark of The Strategic Coach Inc.). When a person is using their Unique Ability®, their talent and skill are noticed by others. As a result, they experience continued improvement, which energizes them and fuels their passion to do the job better than anyone else could.
It’s a powerful cocktail that combines passion and talent.
One great hindrance to placing the right person in the right seat is a poorly defined job description. When responsibilities and expectations aren’t clearly stated it is usually due to a structural issue. Nebulous structures are often created by leaders looking to accommodate people. They mold the structure to ensure that people they like stay around. However, this often results in a mismatch between person and seat.
These mismatches are usually one of three things: the right person in the wrong seat, the wrong person in the right seat, or the wrong person in the wrong seat.
The right person in the wrong seat is often someone who shares the company’s core values but isn’t operating at their peak ability. Maybe they’ve been promoted to a position that they’re not qualified for because you want to keep them around or perhaps they’ve outgrown a role and have become over-qualified for the job. Ideally, you will move this person to another position where they can make full use of their skillset. But if such a position doesn’t exist, you may have to make the difficult decision to let this person go.
When the wrong person is in the right seat, they may be helping your business in the short term, but having a negative effect on your business as a whole. These people, while good at their jobs, don’t share your core values. They can chip away at company morale and ruin potential relationships with clients. If you have the wrong person in the right seat, you need to get rid of them, even if they’re helping your business’ bottom line.
The wrong person in the wrong seat is a much more obvious issue with an even more obvious solution: they need to be let go for the good of the company. Oftentimes, how this person got into this seat isn’t as obvious. Wickman uses the example of a CFO who had been on the job for more than 20 years. In the beginning, he shared the company’s values, he was talented, and he was in the right seat. But the business and industry changed and he didn’t evolve with them. As time wore on, he became resentful and less friendly, making him the wrong person in the wrong chair. Wickman says the owners hadn’t noticed a problem until their core values and the right structure were clarified and put in place. When they eventually replaced him with a new CFO, the difference was like night and day, according to Wickman.

The Perfect People

The goal is to surround yourself with the best people all of the time. Of course, this would be an ideal situation. Don’t get too bogged down trying to find a completely perfect team. As they say: shoot for the moon, even if you miss you land amongst the stars.
If you notice someone is falling below expectations, Wickman recommends communicating the results to the individual in order to give them a chance to improve their performance. “He or she will improve almost all of the time,” Wickman writes.
If they don’t improve, Wickman recommends a three-strike rule. After the initial analysis, sit down and discuss how they can improve and give them 30 days to do so. If they don’t improve, have another conversation with the individual and give them another 30 days. If they don’t improve a third time, you need to let them go.

The Right Seats

There are three major functions in every company: Sales & Marketing, Operations, and Finance. If one of those functions is weak, it will have a negative impact on the others.
In an Integrated Business, only one person is in charge of each major function within the organization. One person is in charge of Sales & Marketing, another in charge of Operations, and another is the head of Finance. This creates ownership and ensures discipline.
Depending on the size of your company, those three functions may break down further. Sales & Marketing could break down into two distinct divisions; Operations could break down into project management and customer service; while Finance could be made up by Human Resources, Finance, IT, and administration.
Once you’ve defined each function and its sub-divisions, you know what the right seats in your company are.
After that, it’s a matter of determining whether the people currently assuming those roles are the best fit for the position, whether you need to move people around, whether you need to let some people go, or whether you need to hire more people.

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