1/100 Things – Hiring great people makes a big difference

So here’s the first on my 100 things I’ve learned: People matter.

When I first read Jim Collins Good to Great, I jumped for joy to see that the first discipline of great organizations was “Disciplined people: First Who, then What.”

An group might have super ideas, amazing plans, lots of money, amazing technology, or superior consulting advice ( 🙂 … but if it doesn’t have people who know how to make things happen, nothing is getting anywhere.

Here’s a very small example.

Years ago, I had an assistant who was an all around nice person. We started our working relationship very well. But as time went by, my responsibilities and the projects I was working on increased substantially at our fast-paced workplace, where new ideas flowed and projects morphed constantly. I needed to hand off more administrative work to my assistant and did.

After a while, my projects were bogging down on her desk. We had frequent discussions about how to handle the work, but ultimately, she couldn’t keep up in the time I needed things to be done.

I agonized, as she insisted, that it simply wasn’t possible for a normal human to get this work done in the time I expected (which was in a few days). Was I asking too much. But the more I thought about what I did and what I was handing over, I was pretty convinced that the work shouldn’t be as time consuming or as complicated as it had become.

After many long conversations, it became clear to both of us that our working relationship wasn’t working. She decided to look for a job at another company and found one perfectly suited to her. I hired a new assistant.

Once the initial training was over, my new assistant was able to complete in a day that work that had previously taken a week. My new assistant asked for more to do and I was able to pass on to her more interesting and complex projects that helped her develop new skills and let me move on to new projects.

Over the last 30 years, I’ve seen people take over projects or organizations that were considered hopeless and transform them into something truly amazing. Unfortunately, I’ve also witnessed the reverse… ideas or changes that never come to fruition because the organization chose the wrong? person to execute the task.

If something in your organization seems hopelessly stuck, it might be time to take a harder look at the who behind the what.

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