Thursday, December 31, 2009

Becoming Great: First Who, Then What

A few weeks ago, I started blogging about Good to Great. There, I wrote about the importance of the leadership that business owners/managers provide. So called "Level 5 Leadership" is critical, but a leader can't lead unless there's people to be led. So now let's take a look at what Collins has to say about the people you hire.

The research findings showed that the great companies first got the right people on board and the wrong people out before deciding on what they were going to do. They may have had a general notion of what direction they wanted to go, but the specifics needed to be determined by the people on board.

So, what makes someone the "right" or "wrong" person? First, they have a passion for the success of the business. This may lead to personal gain (i.e., higher income) for them but that is secondary to the drive they have to succeed. Second, they get along with others in the business. This is made easier if they share a passion for success, but moving forward with destructive friction is a killer. On the other hand, constructive friction, brought on while the team is trying to find the best step forward, can help the business move forward together. Third, they obviously need to have the proper technical knowledge, but it's more important that they have the ability to learn and adapt, applying that knowledge to various situations that come along.

The benefits of having the right people on the right spots in your business (even if there is only one or two spots) are huge! But it takes discipline to make it happen. Collins indicates that the great companies were rigorous about this. They would remove someone not in the right spot and, if they weren't the right person for any spot in the business, fire them. This is made easier if everyone puts the success of the business first. It is also easiest when that rigor is applied first to the ownership and then trickles down to the bottom levels of the organizational chart.

Collins gives three practical ways to apply this rigor in your business.
  1. If there are doubts about a candidate, don't hire them. It starts first by keeping the wrong people out of the business. Don't settle just to fill a position.
  2. When you know a personnel change needs to be made, do it. He says on page 56 "Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all of the right people."
  3. Put your best people on the biggest opportunities, not the biggest problems. If possible, get rid of the problems but always take on the best opportunities with your best people.

Whether you are a dairy farmer, a food manufacturer, a CSA owner, or other type of food or agricultural entrepreneur, these fundamentals should be applied to your business. Your management team and employees are key elements of your business. Be sure they are the right people to move forward with in 2010 and following years as you move your business toward greatness.

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