6 Questions to Ask to Ensure That You Get the Right People On the Bus

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On October 7, 2013

In his book, Good to Greatl best-selling author Jim Collins likes to talk about the importance of having the right personnel. He describes that as “getting the right people on the bus.”  Here’s how Collins puts it:

You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and who’s going with you.

When it comes to getting started, good-to-great leaders understand three simple truths. First, if you begin with “who,” you can more easily adapt to a fast-changing world. 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 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. Great vision with mediocre people still produces mediocre results.

So how can you make sure you get the right people on your bus? Here are six questions that can help.*

  1. Does the person hold his/her commitments to be sacred? Successful businesses require people who will honor their commitments—even when it costs them comfort. Lip service doesn’t get it done.
  2. Does the person view his/her role as a responsibility or a title? A title does not equate to entitlement. You want people in place for what they can offer—not what they can take
  3. Does the person fit your culture? There has to be a certain “chemistry” in order for people to work well together. That includes things such as shared values. Note that not everyone needs to be in lock step. Sometimes someone from a different “culture” is just what you need to shake things up. But the basic values have to be there.
  4. Does the person share successes and assume personal, proactive accountability for losses? There is no such thing as a “fair weather leader.” If someone can’t accept responsibility for missteps, how will he or she correct them?
  5. Does the person need little management and are they coachable? One of the big roles key team members fill is to lift the load—to free you to do things only you can do. “Self-starters” are essential. But you also want people who learn. If you can’t coach them, how will they ever improve?
  6. Is this person passionate about work, the team and the company? Not everybody is a cheerleader. That’s OK. What’s not OK is if someone simply isn’t excited about what he or she is doing. Motivated, passionate people take initiative and will challenge themselves—and you!

Before you let someone new on your “bus” you may want to say, “Not so fast!” Then ask yourself the questions above before you accept their ticket.

*Adapted from How The Mighty Fall by Jim Collins