Moving From Good to Great

Posted: February 25, 2014

The old adage ‘People are your most important asset’ turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.

Jim Collins, in his book entitled “Good To Great” mentions that many of the good-to-great companies did not take a requisition-driven approach to finding the best people; instead, they attempted to “inject an endless stream of talent” into their organizations, sometimes without a job in mind. A key part of the “get the right people on the bus” approach is not selling a set vision to potential candidates.

If people get on your bus because of where they think it’s going, you’ll be in trouble when you get 10 miles down the road and discover that you need to change direction because the world has changed. But if people board the bus principally because of all the other great people on the bus, you’ll be much faster and smarter in responding to changing conditions. Second, if you have the right people on your bus, you don’t need to worry about motivating them. The right people are self-motivated: Nothing beats being a part of a team that is expected to produce great results. And third, if you have the wrong people on the bus, nothing else matters. You may be headed in the right direction, but you still won’t achieve greatness.


The best people are worth digging for. One of the good-to-great CEOs highlighted the fact that he spent 80% of his time finding the right people and ensuring they were in the best roles.

Not all turnover is bad. The early days of nearly every good-to-great transformation was characterized by high initial turnover, which really represented the wrong people getting off the bus before it left the station.

The right person is not always the person you expect. Whether someone is the right person has more to do with character traits and innate capabilities than with specific knowledge, background, and skills. It’s about attitude, how they deal with situations, how they learn from situations.

In order to move from good to great, you need to make sure you have the right people on the bus in the right seats. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. If I had the luxury of time and an endless supply of people, would I make the same hiring choice?
  2. Is this person an industry leader in what they do?

Not every company can be or even aspires to be great. But truly great staffing means thinking about how to get the absolute best people on the bus. It means occasionally hiring someone great who isn’t an exact fit for one of your current openings. It means mining your relationships in search of great people, not just great resumes. And it requires a radical focus on measuring and improving quality.