Right People… Right Seats

Alex Alex Pollock

We’ve likely all heard the mantra “Manage stuff and lead people.”  Maybe too simplistic a way to differentiate the responsibilities of a manager versus those of a leader I will concede. But few would disagree that one of the great challenges facing leaders continues to be putting the right people in the right roles at the right time. The latest book by Jim Collins of “Good to Great” fame is “How the Mighty Fall..And Why Some Companies Never Give In.” Collins’ research yields six generic characteristics of who these “right” people may be:

1. The right people fit with the Company’s Core Values
2. The right people don’t need to be tightly managed
3. The right people understand that they do not have “jobs”; they have responsibilities
4. The right people fulfill their commitments
5. The right people are passionate about the Company and it’s work
6. The right people display “window and mirror” maturity (give credit and take blame appropriately)

What’s your gut telling you about these characteristics? How well do they align with your experiences? How would you describe the role of Company culture and HR philosophies in making this responsibility of leadership seamlessly occur? We’re awaiting your thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

About Alex Pollock

Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

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  1. Norm

    September 23, 2009

    I would add, “The right people know what their ‘job’ is–to provide resources to make your job easier.” Only the best managers/bosses and employees/staff understand this (and fulfill this committment/responsibility). It is so simple, yet so rare. Maybe it is the unicorn of good business.

  2. Dean M. Calhoun, CIH

    September 23, 2009


    Right on! As the Founder/CEO of a consulting company that provides services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, it is rare to find people that are passionate about their work. When you find the individual that’s willing to say “I screwed up”, instead of blaming the client and everyone else, that is a rare individual. Be passionate about what you do or get out!

    Dean M. Calhoun, CIH
    Affygility Solutions

  3. Stephen Evanoff

    September 29, 2009


    Thanks for another thoughtful blog and for keeping us all up-to-date on the latest ideas from American business managament thought leaders.

    I think Jim Collins’ six characteristics will be increasingly important as we continue to move into a work world dominated by the “Creative Class” as Richard Florida dubs them in his book “The Rise of the Creative Class.”

    My sense is that a substantial gap exists between these six ideal characteristics and the way most companies act. There’s an opportunity here for the HR people who adapt to make a lasting impact on company culture.

  4. Alex Pollock

    September 29, 2009

    Thanks for the comment Stephen. I’ve been challenged further as I read Gary Hamel’s “The Future of Management” where he challenges the current management paradigm and as he proposes some new ideas he “dreams of companies that actually deserve the passion and creativity of the folks that work there.” As you say there has to be an opportunity here!!

  5. David Williams

    October 9, 2009

    In “Good to Great” Jim Collins also stated: “The old adage ‘People are your most important asset’ is wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

    Norm provided this insightful comment above: “The right people know what their ‘job’ is–to provide resources to make your job easier.” I would like to add something – the “right” people don’t view the definition of their “job” as a static thing – they are always looking for new ways to deliver value, reduce or stop doing things that don’t add value and don’t recognize any pre-conceived boundaries to what their job is supposed to be.

  6. Alex Pollock

    October 12, 2009

    Thanks for the thought David. Any experiences out there on the how organizations can have a high success rate at transforming people into “right” people?

  7. David Williams

    October 13, 2009

    I have direct experience in doing this within EHS and also within IS organizations. The specific situations that existed and the approaches were unique, but the common foundation is the same:

    –Vision/direction – clearly laying out “this is where we are headed and why”

    –Priorities – clearly laying out “these are the most important things we need to do and by when”

    –Roles/Responsibilities – clearly communicating “here is where you fit into the organization, how you can contribute and how you will help us meet our priorities and move toward the vision”

    –Commitment to help – clearly communicating “I (as the manager) am here to help all of you, what can I do to help you?”

    The redundant use of “clearly” is not a mistake -clarity is a key ingredient. If you do this, then the “right” people who are there will stay, the people with the capacity to be “right” will emerge and the others who can’t or don’t want to become “right” will be evident.

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