The Bus, Art and Science


“The good-to-great leaders understood three simple truths. First, if you begin with “who,” rather than “what,” you can more easily adapt to a changing world… Second, if you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away… Third, if you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction, you still won’t have a great company.”

  • Jim Collins, in Good To Great; Why Some Companies Make The Leap, and Others Don’t

“But what if you have the bus pointed in the wrong direction?” you might ask.

The right people will figure that out pretty quickly, and as long as the bus driver isn’t tone-deaf or unwilling to listen or collaborate, the team will get it pointed in a better direction, and accelerate it on that new path.

Getting the right people on the bus, then, is critical.

So, is recruiting art, science or somewhere in between?

There is science involved, of course. But if we select for “fit” first, it’s very rare to find someone who’s a great fit, who cares about the others on the bus but is also incapable of learning the skills necessary to contribute.

No, we should not hire people without medical degrees and experience to be surgeons. For most of us, our businesses don’t involve scalpels or risk of paralysis or death, though. No, we should not hire career sales pros to hammer code in a software company, or career coders to carry a bag and make quotas. Conceptually, that essentially covers the a significant part of the “science” piece.

So, if the skills and experience are aligned, how do we decide who to put in the seats on the bus?

Let’s hire for “want to,” and then dig into “can do.” Let’s lead based on creating an environment where success is the most likely outcome, and then coach to the tasks, skills and activities that are part of winning game plans.


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