In the book, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, we learn about executives who succeed because "they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, "Look, I don´t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we´ll figure out how to take it someplace great.´"
It sounds pretty simple and straightforward. The metaphor of the bus is one we can all probably relate to as well. Then why is it so hard to get people behind a company´s mission? Why is it so exhausting to convince employees that the company´s goals should be their goals, too? Maybe, like the people identified in Good to Great-the ones who are already committed to the company´s principles and strategies-we need to focus on whom we´re working with rather than the task at hand. Clearly, you need to be attuned to your company´s projects, goals, and raison d´etre. But you also need to look around and as author Jim Collins points out, see who else is sitting on the bus. In my last post, I wrote about the excellent customer service I received at a nearby Apple Store. As I waited for Mike to perform his magic on my sick iPod (okay, I know, it´s my husband´s iPod; I´m just a lowly borrower) I looked around the store. There is energy everywhere, but mostly it comes from the people working there. That´s the way it´s supposed to happen. And, yes, the energy is contagious. That´s supposed to happen, too. It´s not an accident. It´s not something that Apple was hoping to happen. It´s all planned and it works pretty well. If I´d seen a bunch of people walking around with long faces and slumped shoulders I wouldn´t have felt very confident with my technical issues. Indeed, I would´ve been planning the memorial service for the iPod.
So short of sneaking energy boosts into you employees´ morning cups of coffee how do you infuse your staff with an enthusiastic point of view? How do you get people to turn problems over and over again in search of a solution (versus simply complaining and whining about the state of things)? In other words, how do you get the right people on the bus?
First of all, you need to know what "right" means. Are the right people the ones who go with the flow? I mentioned earlier that you want to get people on board who are committed to the company´s goals. But what if one of those riders has an issue with the direction in which the company is headed? What if someone has identified a problem that if not fixed could cost the company millions of dollars in lost revenue? Do you want those people to sit around and hope someone with more authority sees what they see or do you want to create an environment that welcomes objections?
What kind of atmosphere do you foster-one in which friendly conflict is tolerated or one that discourages professional debate?