In Good To Great, Jim Collins' research emphasised just what a difference finding the right people to fill the right positions in a company makes to that company’s performance. This intuitively sounds like an obvious thing to say, but I think it's once of the hardest things to get right. Not least because of the (internal and external) pressure that often exists to fill an important position in a timely manner.
Collin's found that one of the characteristics of the leaders of good to great companies was that they kept searching for the right person if they weren't categorically sure that the candidates in front of them were not absolutely right. They were also great at ensuring that they positioned their best employees in the optimum opportunities for growth in the business (rather than solving everyday problems). And they focused on character, ideals, values (that match those of the business), behaviour, work ethic as well as (and sometimes as a higher priority than) direct experience. In short, they valued people for who they were and not just what they could do for you, and demonstrated attributes themselves that they also looked for in others like a disciplined work ethic mixed with a sense of personal responsibility, of cultivating passion and an entrepreneurial spirit. I've long thought that when recruiting staff, direct experience (direct skills experience) is often overrated, and attitude, enthusiasm, and a demonstrable ability to learn from experiences, are underrated.
Tim was kind enough to point me (in a comment on my post on insourcing/outsourcing), at David Smith's post about achieving effective change through the right person in the right place at the right time. It's interesting, says David, that the business world has more recently prized leadership over managers and entrepreneurs when of-course all three are critical to the effective running of a business. Yet they are very different beasts:
- The Entrepreneur dreams about the future, is strong on ideas, and brilliant at vision
- The Leader plans for tomorrow, is strong on people and brilliant at behaviour
- The Manager delivers today, is strong on process, and brilliant at capability
Entrepreneurs in companies are the ideas people who often end up being put in charge of building new capability or business units. But once those units are established they require managers to extract the full value or generate sustainable sales or greater ongoing efficiencies.
Conflict can occur between entrepreneurs and managers as the former struggle to get the latter on-side with new ideas, and the latter despair of getting the former to appreciate the nuances of running the ongoing business. As entrepreneurs are focused more on the ideas of tomorrow, and managers more on the business of today, the former may see the latter as 'change blockers'. Once a new venture has been created, entrepreneurs may be less equipped or enthused to optimise the venture on an ongoing basis and so may be moved out of the business rather than be assigned the next entrepreneurial challenge, resulting in innovation loss for the company. For this reason, says David, more entrepreneurs feel that they don't belong in corporate world and so end up in SMEs.
But all three are essential. Leaders need entrepreneurs (to identify and capitalise on ideas), and entrepreneurs need leaders (so that they're not working in isolation). Both need managers that can take innovations and make them work, and managers in turn need leaders and entrepreneurs. Everyone has a profile that mixes these three attributes to a greater or lesser degree, and it goes without saying that where things go wrong is where someone's profile is mismatched to the role that they find themselves in. In the context of achieving change, awareness of the profiles enables you to identify where support for the change will come from, and where there might be blockers. In the context of a senior team in corporate world, leadership may be overvalued (everyone wants to be a leader) at the expense of entrepreneurs and managers, resulting in an imbalance.
Makes a whole bunch of sense to me.