This blog post will explore the 4th Factor of the Five Factors of Leadership and Team Success – Right People, Right Skills.
I’m a huge believer in maximizing human capital in leadership. In saying that, I don’t mean to squeeze every last ounce of work and productivity out of people, but rather to get the right people doing the right work and continually developing their skills to be even better.
Get the Right People on the Bus
Much of the inspiration for this factor comes from one of my favorite books – Good to Great by Jim Collins. He compares a company with a bus and the leader as a bus driver. He offers some steps to this process:
- Get the right people on the bus – Leaders are responsible for being rigorous in hiring and selecting the right people to join the company. This should take substantial time to be systematic about it, and it’s actually better to have no one filling a position than to bring in the wrong person.
- Get the right people in the right seats – It is critical to get all key seats filled with the right people in them. Often when someone isn’t performing it is because they are in the “wrong seat.” If someone is underperforming, give them a chance to do something that is better suited for them if possible.
- Get the wrong people off the bus – It’s not worth it to keep someone around who is dragging the whole team down. Be judicious but not ruthless and help people exit with dignity. You still want people leaving with positive feelings of the company. If there were hiring mistakes, drive to root cause to continue to get better at bringing in the right people.
- Put “who” before “what” – This is where I diverge from Collins a bit. He suggests always putting “who” before “what.” I would rather start with “why” which should help attract the right “who” to get the “what” done. Enough with the quotation marks, I know. The point here is to spend enough time on people decisions, because good people can take you far.
Once you have the right people, it’s important to continue to develop skills for future growth and needs. For example, I’m a big believer that engineers and technical professionals must take significant time to develop leadership skills and soft skills to make the move into management. Strong technical contributors don’t immediately translate into strong technical leaders. Identifying great candidates and developing them through mentoring and coaching relationships is critical.
Additionally, it’s important to make sure your teams simply have the right functional skills. If you need someone to perform data analysis, develop beautiful reports, design a circuit board, or operate equipment, they must be trained to do so. Some skills can be learned on the job and through training programs, but it would be unwise to expect a jump to skills that typically takes acquiring a degree to happen in a few weeks.
It’s often helpful to do a skills analysis to determine if there are gaps in the needs of the group and the current capabilities/skills of your team. Use this to be intentional about creating appropriate training, development, and hiring plans for the future. Use 1:1 meetings to work with your employees to craft their personal development plans based on what you learned, making sure you’re pointing them in a direction they want to go.
A Personal Example
I have a knack for quickly getting projects started and being cross functional in my work. Hence, in one company I worked for, I had opportunities to work on a large variety of projects. Once such project was the digitization of our manufacturing floor, allowing for more accurate and easily adjusted manufacturing instructions to be used in production. I was happy to take on the initiative and set the project up with a vision and strategy – this played to my strengths. About a year in, however, my team was through most of the heavy lifting and my role turned me into much more of a “controller” rather than a “creator.” I then felt stuck and unable to do my best work, having lost my excitement for what I was doing. I was no longer in the right place to best utilize my skills, so I needed a change. That change led me to start More Than Engineering.
People are the Fuel
People are the fuel of an organization. They make it go and grow. If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you. Creating a culture of learning, development, and high-quality hiring is a requirement for business success today. Don’t neglect the necessary actions you need to take to help make the best people be their best selves and do their best work. You’ll be glad you did.
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