I’ve been thinking a lot about the questions that surround getting the right people in the right seats on the bus (Jim Collins’ very compelling argument in Good to Great). Collins’ idea is that you begin by getting the right people on the bus (recruiting the right people to your team). That, he insists, is actually more important than where you’re going. He refers to this idea as “First Who, Then Where”. Simply put, if you end up with the right people on the bus first, they won’t want to get off the bus if you choose a different destination after they’re on board. That’s first. But that’s not what we’re talking about today.
Second is what we’re talking about right now…and that has to do with making sure that you’re helping the team end up in the right seats once they’re on the bus. And that is also tremendously important. And believe it or not, it’s not a new challenge. It’s as old as the hills…or at least as old as Jesus.
You need to hang with me on this one. Regardless of your persuasion, just hang with me. It will be worth it.
Jesus tells a story in Luke 19 that really has a lot to say about why this is an important topic. In the story he tells about a powerful man who left for a journey and as he was leaving entrusted each of his servants with the task of managing a chunk of money (about three months wages). When the man finally returned he held a meeting and asked for a progress report. One of the men had taken the chunk and multiplied it 10 times, a 1000% return on the money! Another had produced a 500% return. And one had been afraid to do anything for fear of losing the initial investment…and simply returned the money.
What does this have to do with the right seat on the bus? I think you find the answer in a combination of what is said to the three servants and what can be read between the lines. The first two men both receive the same performance review. They hear “great job!” Let’s just say the third guy hears something that let him know he blew it. But think about the first two. They both are commended…and commended equally. This is where we need to read between the lines just a bit. But first, a little extra background information.
Throughout the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament of the Bible) Jesus uses a couple phrases that shed some light on the “between the lines” part here. The first phrase is “thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.” Another phrase he uses is “each according to his ability.” Both are used multiple times and in a variety of stories. And I think both of them have to do with what I call, “the relative capacity of people”. The story behind thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times is that when seed is planted, the size of the harvest depends on the relative capacity of each individual plant. Make sense? Each one has an individual potential. They don’t earn it or become more fruitful. In a sense, each plant is what it is.
The second phrase is “each according to his ability.” You can probably see where that line comes in. Back to the story in Luke 19, you’re only held accountable for what you should produce…according to your ability. Both lines really are about the “relative capacity of people”. And both are helpful when it comes to reading between the lines of Luke 19. Follow me on this one.
If you think back to the guy that returned 1000% and the guy that produced 500%. If they each had a level of capacity (ability) and they both heard “good job”, then the assumption must be that they actually produced “according to their ability”. Here’s the question when you read between the lines. What if the 1000% fold guy had only brought back 500%. Would he have heard, “good job?”
Would he have heard, “good job?” I think not. I think they both heard “good job” because they both returned “according to their ability”. If they had not returned what they were individually capable of, they would have been underperforming. And they would have heard a different response.
This is important. What it says is that you’ve got people who are hundred fold people in your organization and you need to be sure that they’re in the right seats on the bus…because those are the only seats that will enable a return that is consistent with their ability. In a sense, you are stewarding their talent. Interesting, don’t you think?
Here’s the question: “Do you have the right people in the right seats on your bus?”