• Jonathan Goldhill

Do You Have the Right People on Your Team?

Updated: Apr 21

People are at the core of everything you do. To succeed and grow stronger, you need the right people in the right seats doing the right things. However, in a family business, it’s not unusual to have the right people in the wrong seat, the wrong person in a position based solely on their familial connection, or in some circumstances, nobody in the seat at all.


This blog is about having the right people (core values fit) in the right seats (role fit) and doing the right things (accountabilities).


First Who, Then What

Building a great company is based on “First Who, Then What,” per Jim Collin’s concept, which he developed in his book Good to Great. Leaders who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus first. Next, they focus on whether they are in the right seats (i.e., positions). Then they decide where to drive the business. In other words, they always think first about who first, and then about what. This is because your best strategy is to have the right people deciding how to respond to the chaos and uncertainty that’s inevitably around the corner.


I learned this in the ’80s while I was in business school from every venture capitalist that guest-lectured in our entrepreneurship classes. An ‘A’ quality management team with a ‘C’ business concept will greatly outperform a ‘C’ quality team with an ‘A’ quality business concept.

Like most organizations, great companies depend upon the leader at the top, the chief visionary officer, typically titled the CEO.


Selecting Your Disruptive Successor

I recently worked with a construction company started by a father and two sons. The father was middle-aged, and his sons were the heirs apparent. Should he make them co-CEOs or give one the title and risk hurting his other child?


He chose the “disruptive successor” because that son had a better grasp of the company, the competitive landscape, creating new revenue streams, controlling operations, applying technology to grow the business, and building his people’s bench strength—including his brother. The father chose the better candidate because this son could reinvent the company if need be.

Selecting your successor is an important and critical first step in the “Right People, Right Seats, Right Things” concept.

Here’s what comes next …


Building Your Team

Just because your business is family-run doesn’t mean that the family members can get all the work done. Nor should they! To build a scalable business, you need a team that can run it in your absence.


You’ll need to hire the best people, train them exceptionally well, support them in achieving personal and professional growth, and reward them well – with a good salary, benefits, bonuses, and all the perks that it takes to keep them happy and performing at their peak.


The Right People Are Not Always Family … But They Could Be

And here’s another area where having the right people in the right seats doing the right things is critical. If you have a family member who is underperforming or doing “just enough,” this sets an example for employees who will undoubtedly feel that this is the example to follow.


For example, a family member might be in a position because they can do it adequately, but if they don’t have any formal training, this will eventually become a disadvantage. It’s a clear case of the right person in the wrong seat, and often, other family members will stand behind them, even when they know they’re losing out on new business or other opportunities.


To prevent this from becoming an issue now or down the road, I suggest creating detailed descriptions of each position. Include critical accountabilities, competencies, and outcomes, so when a family member assumes a role, they are held to that standard. If they are a good fit, they should be able to perform the job, want to do it, and understand what’s required to do it well.


Like any new employee, you would want to conduct a review after 90 days to see how things are working out. View the family member as you would any new hire, and ask yourself whether you would hire them for that position if they were not family? If the answer is no, then you should consider where else you could put them.


When To Hire

If your leaders are performing tasks below their pay grade, it’s time to hire new people. But don’t just do it out of convenience – ensure the new hire will add value and efficiency. Ultimately, you’re doing it to free up more time for your leaders to lead.


Some of the biggest mistakes in hiring are either doing it too fast or waiting too long. You need the right people, and hiring too quickly could force you to make hasty decisions. Leaving an underperforming employee in a position too long is a mistake also. Even if you don’t have a suitable replacement waiting in the wings, not doing anything sends the wrong message. Other employees will see that you tolerate unacceptable performance, which is never a good place to be.


The question of when to hire is always a balancing act, but finding the right person is not easy either.


Start by asking your A-players if they can recommend anybody. According to Geoff Smart, internally referred people are four times better than other hires. Next, look to the industry at large. Advertising comes next; LinkedIn is an excellent source as it’s imminently transparent. ZipRecruiter and Indeed also allow you and the candidate to review each other’s backgrounds and customize the recruiting process to satisfy your needs.


Another highly effective message is to take an active marketing approach, selecting candidates based on resumes they’ve posted on job boards, not waiting for them to come to you.


When you’re ready to start interviewing, I recommend you acquaint yourself with the Topgrading method, as it gives you a templated interviewing and hiring strategy that delivers exceptional results.


As always, I encourage you to purchase my book, Disruptive Successor. In Chapter Seven, I dive deep into the Right People, Right Seats, and Right Things, and provide a step-by-step blueprint on how to achieve your goals.


Come back next week when we’ll talk more about people and what it takes to develop strong leaders.


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