Hi! And how are you all? It has been a relatively quiet month for training, as is usual during the holy month of Ramadhan, plus the Deepavali and Hari Raya festivities. I have had some interesting engagements though of companies which organize a ‘buka puasa’ followed by a motivational talk. I felt that this was quite innovative in the sense that they are combining a learning session with a social occasion, which proved to be very productive.
Thank you very much to all those who wrote to me after my last newsletter about ‘stallions and donkeys’. I was overwhelmed with mail and I am glad that it has invoked quite a lot of discussion. Most wrote to say that this concept only homed in on the extremes and you felt that you were in between a ‘stallion’ and a ‘donkey’. Great, as indirectly you have done a reality check on yourself. We all need to assess our strengths and weaknesses every once in a while, so that we can find new directions for growth in life.
This month, I want to talk to you about a great concept taken from a brilliant book by Jim Collins entitled “Good to Great”. It involves the analogy in the diagram below.
Get the right people onto the bus. I think this is a key concept that most organizations do not do well at all. How can you achieve success if you have the ‘wrong’ team? One of the mistakes most organizations make when they recruit is to select people based solely on their technical qualifications and skills. This is important, but I would suggest a better option would be to select based more on behavioral rather than technical skills. I would rather employ a manager with satisfactory technical skills but with an excellent attitude rather than the most technically qualified manager, but with a terrible attitude. Working in organizations is not only doing your work well but importantly, interacting and assisting other people in doing their work well too. In a nutshell, the right people would be people with the right skills/competencies, attitude, team players and critically, those who can take your organization to the next level. In the process make sure that the right people in your organization are also sitting in the ‘right’ seats in the bus! And finally, make sure you have the right driver; otherwise, the right people may get off the bus prematurely at the next stop!!
Get the wrong people off the bus. How do you get rid of your employees who are constantly underperforming or are the deadwood in the organization? I would suggest that you can do this by borrowing an idea from Jack Welch when he was the CEO of GE. He ranked all his employees into three categories, category A were the high performers, category B were those who had the potential but lacked certain skills and experience, and lastly category C were those who were underperforming. Every year, managers had to brief their superior about actions they had taken in relation to people in category C. Termination was always an option that was considered because one bad apple can make a whole team under-perform, which is usually disastrous. Marcus Buckingham in his book, “First break all the rules”, says that most managers spend a lot of time on underperformers when if they spend the same time on high performers, the returns would be so much greater. In regards the fact that it is difficult to terminate people, yes, I do agree to a certain extent. Please remember however that not terminating them would be the easier but more disastrous option for your organization. Please also remember that even if you have excellent goals and strategies, but with the wrong people on the bus, you will continue to achieve mediocre results.
Set the Direction. When you board the bus, you always want to know where the bus is going. If you are not aware, then it is most certain that you will feel uncomfortable. Bus drivers must therefore always keep their passengers informed. It is okay to change direction every once in a while, because passengers understand the volatile state of the business environment and the need to change course. They however would like to always be kept informed of the ‘new direction’, so that they can work towards assisting the driver to reach the new ‘destination’. When you are kept in the ‘dark’ there is nothing much you can do to assist the driver. Vision/mission statements and organizational strategies must therefore be made known to everyone in the bus inclusive the ones at the lower levels!! I have many times in the course of my work, seen vision/mission statements that were there to be used more as marketing tools and also because ‘everyone is doing it’, rather than as a tool to drive the organization. Ask your management team today about what your organization’s vision/mission statement is and I am most certain 90% will not know!! Think about it! If you do not know where you are going, how can you get there!!
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I do hope I have provoked you into thinking about this management analogy by Jim Collins and have indirectly contributed a little bit more to your management knowledge. Until my next newsletter, my warmest wishes to all of you and your loved ones. Take care.