At CEO Coaching International, we work with a very diverse group of companies and entrepreneurs: different sizes, different industries, different stages of development. But all our clients share one important characteristic: they’re not content with where they are today. They’re not settling for Good; they’re following our best practices towards becoming and staying Great.
“Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t” by Jim Collins is a book I recommend to every single one of my clients, and anyone who’s interested in business. Collins has spent more than 25 years studying and teaching the habits and philosophies that separate the absolute best companies from the rest of the pack. His emphasis on hiring top talent really crystallizes in these five insightful gems that we often preach at CEO Coaching:
1. “1st Who, then What.”
So many struggling companies get this backwards. To paraphrase Collins, you can’t decide where to drive a bus before you get the right people on board – and the wrong people off.
The jump from starting in your garage to running a nine-figure company is absolutely impossible if you don’t have top talent working for you. If you hire the best people, they’re going to help you and your company adapt to the ever-changing business landscape. They’re going to attract more top talent. And they’re going to execute the day-to-day activities that will free you up to tackle CEO-level responsibilities.
2. “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”
A CEO at a good-enough company looks at his leadership team, sees a group of 5s and 6s, and thinks, “OK. Good enough.”
CEOs at great companies replace 5s and 6s with 9s and 10s. They do not compromise on top talent. They don’t look at the best CFO or sales manager in their field and think, “I wish I could afford that guy” – they make that top performer an offer he can’t refuse. And, perhaps most importantly, they don’t hire people who fit the business’ current size – they hire people who will enable the company to scale exponentially.
3. “When in doubt, don’t hire.”
The candidate’s resume is perfect. His Talent Insights Profile checks all the right boxes. He’s a personable and charismatic interview … but something just feels off. The credentials are there. The culture fit is a question mark.
My advice: move on to the next candidate. The culture you’ve built at your company is as integral to its success as your long-term goals and targets. Nothing can throw off that culture faster than hiring the wrong person, especially for a leadership position.
4. “When you think you need to make a hiring change, act. Keeping the wrong people around is not fair to all the right people.”
When I talk to CEOs about their biggest regrets, delaying a difficult personnel change is frequently at the top of the list.
Firing people is never easy, especially if the employee is a nice person. Unfortunately, “nice guy” is not a job title.
“But I’m close to this person … Our kids go to school together … He’s been with the company forever … The other employees love him …” I’ve heard it all before. But what I’ve never heard is a top leader who said, “I fired them too soon.”
These are sentimental concerns, not business concerns. How happy are your other employees going to be if this underperformer keeps dragging down your numbers and layoffs follow?
There’s also a very good chance you’re overestimating just how much your best employees really value that nice guy who’s making life harder for everyone else. Your best employees deserve to work with the best. They deserve a chance to run with your best opportunities, not babysit your biggest problems. If you don’t give them that chance, they may head off to a company that does.
Make the change. Now.
5. “Spending time and energy trying to motivate people is a waste of time. The real question is not how to motivate people but how to not demotivate them.”
What demotivates your team?
Collins believes ignoring “brutal facts” is a major demotivator. Your employees know when something is wrong, whether it’s a top-level crisis or a kink in the ground-level machinery. CEOs who try to sweep the facts under the rug and strut around the office like nothing’s wrong only breed distrust and paranoia. Great employees want to work for a boss who confronts the brutal facts head-on.
Another common mistake CEOs make is failing to engage their team at the decision-making level. No one wants to spend an hour in a meeting where it’s clear the CEO has made up his or her mind before everyone sits down. Even worse is the CEO who makes a big show of proving how smart, how savvy, how “right” he or she is about everything, just in case anyone forgets who’s really in charge.
Why hire top talent if you’re not going to listen to them, learn from them, grow as a leader by working with them? Collins suggests Intel’s classic “disagree and commit” strategy. Open up the floor to every idea, every difference of opinion. Let your top people be heard and appreciated. Then, at the end of the discussion, it will be much easier to make sure everyone commits to your decision.
Finally, Collins loves big scoreboards just as much as I do. Your team doesn’t want to hear about tomorrow all the time – they want to see results today. A big scoreboard with big numbers trending up to your BIG goals reminds everyone what you’re all working for and keeps everyone motivated to hit those targets.
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. His firm coaches over 150 of the world’s top high-growth entrepreneurs and CEO’s from 17 countries on how to dramatically grow their revenues and profits, implement the most effective strategies, becoming better leaders, grow their people, build accountability systems, and elevate their own performance. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.