One of the more interesting and valuable business books written in recent years is a book called GOOD TO GREAT by Jim Collins. The book is a follow-up to Collins best seller BUILT TO LAST which studied the long-term growth of companies with the goal of identifying the factors that led to long term business success.
The research for BUILT TO LAST revealed 11 companies that significantly outperformed all of the others in the study, so Collins and his team of researchers probed further to understand what made them different and presented their findings in GOOD TO GREAT.
The core premise put forth in the book is as simple as it is compelling: Great companies start by getting the right people on the bus. Next, they make sure the people are in the right seats on the bus…the seats where they can spend the majority of their time doing the things that they do very well. With the right people in the right seats, they decide where the bus is going and focus on doing what the company can do better than anyone else given the unique set of talents and abilities that the team possesses.
These basic concepts from the book seem to hit the mark with most of the credit union executives and board members I encounter…they get the concept and see it as appealing, recognizing the power of having the right people in the right seats working toward the creation of a shared vision. But just as strongly as they agree with the concept, they express concern about how to move from where they are at present to the ‘good to great’ model of success.
It’s probably not surprising that the most common challenge they share when considering this approach is how to get the right people on the bus. When pushed further, they usually reveal a concern about people currently on the bus don’t seem to belong. In fact, most agree that they would benefit from taking a sharp left hand turn with the door open to get those folks off the bus…a rather direct solution, but not one that can be easily implemented.
So what can you do to move your credit union along the pathway to success outlined in GOOD TO GREAT?
Start with the low hanging fruit…the employees who aren’t fitting well with the current culture of your credit union. Since managing these folks is probably already consuming a lot of someone’s time, you need to get serious about defining the problem and fixing it. The remedy is the same, whether it is a long term employee who simply hasn’t changed as the credit union has grown or a more recent hire who is just not settling in the way you had hoped.
The first question to ask is: Are they on the wrong bus, or are they in the wrong seat on your bus? You can gain insight into this by talking with their supervisors and managers, and by speaking directly with the employee. Focus on understanding the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that they bring to the credit union, then evaluate whether their current position is allowing them to utilize their talents effectively.
Though such conversations are not easy, chances are they will be revealing to everyone involved. The employee will realize that you are interested in them becoming a more productive, contributing member of the team, and in the process they will gain more insight into the culture of your credit union. You will learn whether the problem is a ‘seat’ problem or a ‘bus’ problem, then you can make a decision about your next steps.
If the problem is a ‘seat’ problem, use the information you have gleaned to identify a more appropriate seat for the individual…a place where they can use their talents better and spend time doing the work they do best. It may require you to revise or expand a job description as you realign responsibilities, but if you have determined that the employee fits and just needs to be put into another seat, the long-term gains will far outweigh the short-term costs.
If, on the other hand, the problem is a ‘bus’ problem, then you have to work with the employee to help them find a place to work where they can fulfill their potential and better utilize their talents. No one wants to be in a job they cannot do well in a company where they don’t fit. Approaching their transition out of your credit union and into a better place won’t be easy, but the impact on the rest of the team is often huge and well worth the effort required.