Solving the People Problem at Your Business

They will often tell you their greatest joy and greatest pain comes from their employees and the people they work with every day. People is one of the six components we focus on strengthening when implementing the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) in an organization. First popularized by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great,” we focus on getting the right people in the right seats. But what does that mean? If you’re experiencing frustrations with your team, I’ve got a couple of tools to share that can help you.  

We discern right people by our core values. Jim Collins first talked about core values in his book “Built to Last” in the 1980s. Since then, we fear they’ve become a bit trite. Often displayed on the wall behind the receptionist or on coffee mugs, they fail to be actionable in the organization — which is when they really become powerful. I understand some hesitance and why this may have become a bit trite — after all, integrity was one of Enron’s core values. 

Core values are the heartbeat of your organization. They are the behaviors you hold most dear, and also those you expect from your team. They are the chief driver of your culture. People who share your values will be a cultural fit for your organization. Those who don’t share them will not be. When working with leadership teams, I facilitate an exercise to discover your core values — because we believe they already exist and just have to be discovered, not created. When your core values are clear, we use them as a magnet to attract the right people to the organization, but also to repel the wrong people.  

In addition to the right people, we’ve got to make sure we have them in the right seats. The tool we use here is called the accountability chart, which looks like an organizational chart, but has a very different intent. It’s the chief tool we use to get clear on the right structure for your organization that reduces complexity and creates clarity. We’re all about simplicity and execution, and this tool helps make that happen. Once we’ve established the right structure, we then define the three to five roles we expect from each job in our organization. This gives a great visual representation of who is accountable for what, and how we drive accountability.  

When we are clear on the right structure for the organization and we have defined the seats for the organization, we’re going to run into a couple of different problems. The first is right people in the wrong seats. These are the people that fit your organization. They fit your culture, and you like having them around, but they just can’t seem to get the job done.  

They are in the wrong seat.  

Sometimes, there will be another seat in the organization where you can move them and they’ll be in the right seat. If not, it’s time to make a change.  

The other problem we see is wrong people in the right seats. This one feels more painful. These are the people that are good at their jobs. They hit their numbers and get the work done, but they don’t share your core values, and thus don’t fit. I often call these folks “culture cancer.” Whatever benefit they’re bringing you by getting the work done, they’re costing you so much more by eroding away at your culture.  

When you have wrong people, you’ve got to make the hard call and free them up to pursue other opportunities, while also freeing yourself up to fill that seat with someone who fits your organization.  

People issues are often some of the hardest we must confront and solve. Using simple tools like core values, our accountability chart, and the people analyzer will help us make the right decisions for the organization, and ultimately the right decisions for our people.  

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