Enduring great companies have both great culture and deliver consistently.

In his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins studied the attributes of top-performing companies. Enduring great companies that had both great cultures and delivered a consistently strong financial performance for their shareholders all made sure “they have the right people on the bus” – but what does it mean and why is it important?

Jim’s research showed that great companies worked to the principle that it is more important to have a team that substantially shares common core value, purpose, and vision than the skills, talent, and experience they bring to the team. In other words, the “essence” of who they are as team members is more vital for success than the “what” they can do as a team member.

You can’t argue against the research and data explained in Jim’s book, and from our experience of previously spending 25+ years working within corporate businesses and since coaching and advising individual companies, we can completely agree with the data.

So how do you do this? Before reviewing your recruitment and talent acquisition processes, look internally and ask yourself three key questions:

What are the right seats on my bus?
What roles are essential for the company to succeed in its strategic business plan. Be honest in this review, remove from your mind the current team members and personalities you have in roles now, chances are you may have created some roles within your company to fit an individual’s capabilities, and the role is no longer required. Once you have completed this work, ask yourself:

Do I have the right people in each seat?
On the assumption that everyone that works for you is displaying the right values and attitude, once you have the roles determined, you need to decide - are the people in those roles the right people to lead you to success based on their skills, talent, and experience? Do you have gaps? Do you need to move someone from one position to another? Do you have team members no long suited to any of the seats? The final question to ask is:

Are the right people in the right seats doing the right things?
One of the key reasons why A-players leave a company is because they are working on pointless tasks that are not focused on getting the company to where it plans to be. Are all your team members focused on the right priorities and KPIs or are they wasting their time and energy on priorities that are unimportant to the company’s success?

Great companies develop a discipline to ask these questions regularly and then take action to ensure they are happening in their culture. There are five attributes of developing a culture to ensure you have the right people in your company:

  1. Conduct a regular review of the company’s talent to ensure they you are continuously working to update your talent pool and remove C-players from the company. Use your current employees to find top talent. If the A-players on your team enjoy working for you, they will be your biggest brand advocates and entice their friends to come work for you as well.
  2. Create and nurture a culture that attracts top talent. Respect, autonomy, recognition, and appreciation are the four keywords for a welcoming and attractive culture. Ensure that the core values and purpose are alive within the company, team members are congratulated openly for demonstrating them and called out if not.
  3. Review the productivity of your team members, measuring their performance against specific KPIs and metrics that lead back to your strategic business plan. A-player talent should be some of the most productive team members in their individual contributor roles; they need to know that they are performing to the required level.
  4. Avoid the C-player trap, the number one reason why A-player talent leave is the company’s tolerance of C-players. Vast majorities of managers will spend more time with C-players one to one than they do with their top talent. Don’t fall into the trap of spending more time with your problem people at the expense of spending time with your top talent.
  5. Retain, coach, warn, move on! Learn to instinctively know what actions to take with each type of team member. Work to retain your A-players, coach and develop your B-players, warn your B/C players to make required improvements within the set deadline and move your C-players out of the company, do not waste time trying to fix them.

By putting many of the above ideas into practice, companies are well on their way to attracting A-players to join their team. However, most A-players aren’t actively seeking new employment, they are probably well-compensated and happy in their current positions - which is why it’s difficult to find them. Companies need to attract A-players effectively into the organisation.

Learn to approach future candidates as if they were your customers because they are equally important to your success. Consider the way you approach prospects for your services and products. How do you treat them, talk to them, and sell to them? What are the things that you do to get their business? That’s how you should approach top talent. After all, you are also selling them on your company.

In her book “Smart Tribes”, Christine Comaford notes that “a well-orchestrated team depends on everyone doing their job and the time they are supposed to do it in, yielding the results they are supposed to yield”. Teams need to know what their accountabilities are, companies’ expectations on their results and how these link to the company strategic plan.

A-players are drawn to companies that allow them to stretch, develop, and hone their skills. This kind of culture not only attracts top talent, but it also helps retain the current A-players on the team. If you place an A-player in an environment that’s nonconducive to self-development, they’ll leave and search for a company that is. A-players can go wherever they want, and they know it!

Leaders often make the mistake of spending many hours locked away with their senior team, strategizing, planning and developing the company business plan only to not communicate this to the rest of the company. High performing teams need to know where they fit in with the company plan and how they can contribute. Don’t hide away the plan, be proud and display it to everyone.

We have seen some amazing results with companies that take the time to get their team motivated against the future plans of the company and asking them how they can contribute. Setting specific targets and KPIs for individuals against the plan and then measuring success with simple criteria will yield significant results within a defined time period.

As noted by Mike Harden in his Huffington Post article “The bottom line is - if you want to hire A-players in your organisation, you need to cultivate an A -player culture. Treat prospective A-player employees as if you were courting your best client prospect”. – couldn’t have said it better myself.

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