Purpose and Planning help you get the right People in the right seats

People are the most important part of any business. That’s the common refrain, and I would agree with it—as long as your Purpose and Planning are in place first. People can only be at their best if they are clear on the why, what, and how of your business (Purpose) and their role in achieving the business’ purpose (which results from Planning). Once the accountability system discussed in the previous article is implemented company-wide, every person in your business will have assigned goals and/or building blocks and will know how achieving those will help your business achieve its vision by carrying out its mission in accordance with its values. 

In short, Purpose and Planning get your People aligned and pulling in the same direction. Without Purpose and Planning, you might have great People doing some great things, but the cumulative effect won’t be as great because they won’t be aligned. 

In his famous book Good to Great, Jim Collins argues that People should come first – even before your business knows what it wants to do. That’s true if you’re choosing a partner or a team that you want to get into business with (choose wisely). Your team will then go through the initial Purpose and Planning process together. 

But every team member you add beyond the initial group must be selected using your Purpose and Planning as your guide. Planning will tell you what skills you’re looking for in a person, and Purpose will tell you what kind of person you’re looking for. For example, your 1-year plan might have hiring a marketing director as one of its building blocks. You will therefore look for a person with the marketing skills and experience needed for the role. And you will also make sure the person aligns with the vision, mission, and values of the business. 

In other words, your hiring process must include not only a vetting of the skills of the applicant, but also—more importantly—whether or not the applicant gets the why, what, and how of your business. Do they resonate with it? Are they excited by it? What are their values? Are they consistent with those of the business, or is there potential for conflict there? Can they see themselves getting in the boat, grabbing an oar, and rowing in the same direction as everyone else? Can you see them doing that? In short, what kind of person are they?

You have probably heard the phrase “We want to get the right people in the right seats.” That too comes from Collins in Good to Great (which by the way, if you haven’t read, you should – it’s my favourite business book of all time.) By going through the process described above, you will give your business the best chance of hiring the right people for your team, rather than people who simply have the right skills. 

But having the right people isn’t enough. The right people have to be in the right seats. Over time as people and the business grow what started out as the right seat for a team member may no longer be the right seat. They may have grown out of it and need more challenge and responsibility. They may have acquired other skills and are better suited for another seat. They may have not met expectations of the seat they were hired to fill. 

As the business evolves it is continually necessary to assess if you have the right people in the right seats. And you’ll know when to do so because if there are performance issues or conflict issues in your business (and there always are), they are likely the due to the fact that someone is either the wrong person or in the wrong seat. Revisit their alignment with the vision, mission, and values of the business to determine if they are still the right person. Revisit their skill set and record of performance to see if they are still in the right seat. Perhaps they are the wrong person and need to go. Perhaps they are the right person but need to move seats, so that they can better utilize their skills or so that they get more challenge or responsibility to keep them growing and motivated. Perhaps their current seat just needs to be made a little wider (that is not a weight joke btw). 

You should go through the right person, right seat process for your team not only when issues arise but also as part of the 1-year planning process. Each year you should look at what seats you have and what seats are expected to be created during the year, and reassess whether or not all team members are the right person for the right seat. Doing so will help you proactively avoid some personality or performance issues, and will let you know what seats will need to be filled over the next 12 months as the business grows.

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