What Great Leaders Know: It’s About Getting the Right People on the Bus

© AAA - Fotolia.com
© AAA - Fotolia.com

I have been to the mountaintop.

This past week, I was in Austin, Texas for TLNT Transform, which was billed as a new type HR conference. While not a presenter, I served as conference chair. This allowed me to not only sit in on all the presentations, but it gave me insight into all the speakers since part of my role was to introduce each speaker and to get some insight into their presentation.

From the moment I entered the doors of HR, I always felt that more could be done within the role that could benefit the organization. I say that based on other roles within the company. Marketing, Finance and IT were all not only structurally defined but had a unique role in their organization’s strategy.

Being at ground zero

Well, this past week I got a peek from on high how this would look, starting with Jim Knight, Senior Director of Training at Hard Rock International, through the closing session by Jennifer Benz, Founder and Chief Strategist at Benz Communications.

Each Transform presentation within those book ends was like putting on a new pair of glasses which sharpened the view of a new HR function. Each presentation gave a compelling destination of the new world of organizational complexity and the role that a dynamic human resources department would play. The intersection of people and strategy within the organization will be as it was presented at Transform. Yes, that puts us at ground zero.

One of the key components in getting any organization back on track is getting the people thing right.

People innovate and build. As it relates to your customers, people on your staff support and serve them. The people within any organization can do one of two things: either build value, or undermine it. They are either on the road to drive success, or, they reduce the probability of that success.

If your strategy is driven by unhappy, ill-prepared, misdirected, or ill-informed people, it is headed toward a dangerous curve that will be just down the road.

A motivated, skills-ready, informed, connected, and engaged workforce is utopia for any strategic initiative. Without that you are heading for a slow and painful level of non-execution.

As HR professionals in this new era, we can’t ignore the mental well-being of our people and the culture within our organization. Ignore it and the consequences will be staring you in the face. Embrace it and you become the enabler of the direction of the company’s goals.

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I have noticed companies that I know that are in obvious distress, continually announcing grandiose appointments of key executives and their expertise. The assumptions are that these key appointments will be the game changer and the driver that will somehow get these organizations back on track.

The new leader gets the right people on the bus

To use a football analogy, no matter how great the coach, you must have the talent to succeed. That coincides with what Jim Collins refers to as getting the right people on the bus.

In his book Good to Great, Collins states that leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline — first the people, then the direction — no matter how dire the circumstances.

The new leader’s job is to lay out the journey, get the right people, become a model of correct behaviors, lead, communicate clearly and set clear expectations. The staff’s role is to bring their highest engagement level and execute on it.

People will be the great differentiator of organizational success going forward. Organizations that are successful in this new era of people will become the organizations that embrace a culture that is built by motivation, encouragement, employee development, transparent communication, and a celebratory atmosphere of successes.

Get the people thing right and you are half-way home. That other half will depend of your strategy.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


1 Comment on “What Great Leaders Know: It’s About Getting the Right People on the Bus

  1. This is so very true.  Your staff are your power cells, you need to continually feed them to keep them motivated and moving forward.  But so too, you need the right people in the right roles.  Encouragement and recognition go a long way.  When your top performers are performing at their highest potential you will be able to see/notice those individuals still at the bus stop and professionally coach/develop them to where they would be most effective.  It just might not be in that department or that company.  You want and need to develop a staff or department that values the same goals.  It’s our role as HR professionals to teach and train leaders on effective behaviors and skills to manage and lead.  The leadership style that is required for that company or that culture may be different than what the leader is used to see we need to help them to see the light and to grow.  If you want to see change, slow down and start evaluating your “who” and your culture.  HR like leadership is about maximizing your staff (peoples) potential to achieve business goals and success!

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