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Leading from the Core

Clarify Structure BEFORE Adding People

Posted on November 13th, 2013 by Randall Taussig

We all know that people are an organization’s greatest resource. Without a talented team in place, a business will fall apart, or fail before it even starts. But unless those human resources are used wisely, they can often do as much harm as good. Put simply: It’s not enough to hire the right people. You also have to get them in the right “seats.”

A classic hiring pitfall is to massage a position to fit a person’s talent. This can be a fatal blow to future growth, because it undermines the structure required to take the business to the next level.

Structure First, People Second
Before hiring or promoting from within, take the time to that you have the right structure in place. I ask my clients to look ahead 6 to 12 months to determine exactly what role each position will play in achieving the company’s vision – and what skills/talents a person would need to be successful in each position (or “seat”).  Once the structure is clear and all the seats are defined, leaders can find the right people to fill the seats.

Without this type of clarity, you risk allowing key positions to be defined by the employees in them, rather than by the outcomes you need from each of those positions.

What NOT to Do
A client of mine fell into this trap. His company was expanding its commercial printing business into a new market niche – trade associations. The leadership team promoted a very capable employee from an administrative role to spearhead development of this market. This employee was very well liked, fit perfectly within the company’s culture, and was ready for some new challenges. Everyone believed she would learn the ropes quickly and excel in the position.

However, she had no sales experience, nor did she have a working knowledge of the industry. Expectations for this position were high; yet the learning curve for her was quite steep. Management gave her some slack because they wanted to support her success. By doing this, they inadvertently lowered expectations and convinced themselves their original goals were too high. Essentially, they allowed the position to be defined by the employee’s skill set.

Turns out, their original strategy was not unrealistic. As they began to better define their structure, they  realized they had put the right person in the wrong seat. This woman absolutely belonged on their team, but not in that position. So they filled the seat with someone who had sales experience in the association marketplace, and they reassigned the talented, longtime employee to oversee all administration, which was a great fit for her talent. It was a true win-win for everyone.

Yes, your people are your greatest asset. Just make sure you clearly define the seats in the organization first and then go about filling them with great people. Your employees will be happier, more confident, and more successful. And so will you, as you see your bottom line grow!

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