Team Building: What Right People, Right Seat Really Means - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Team Building: What Right People, Right Seat Really Means

If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you have probably heard the mantra ‘right people, right seat’ when it comes to hiring.

But what does that really mean and how do you put it into practice?

Having the right people in the right seats is one of the concepts of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), but you don’t have to use EOS to take advantage of this mindset. When you do have the right people in the right seats, you can trust them to get the job done without your constant oversight.

“If you have the right people in the right seats, then you’ll have a happy and harmonious team!” says Jason Navon, COO of Rossen Landscape based in Great Falls, Virginia.

Who Are the Right People?

For a person to be right for your organization they should show alignment with your core values.

“First of all, are they the right person for your organization?” says Neal Glatt, managing partner of GrowTheBench. “Forget the seat, do they belong on the bus? Do they share your values? Do they get along with people? Are you all moving towards the overall goal?”

Navon says while you can always train someone to mow a lawn you can’t always teach a new hire integrity, drive, or your other core values. This core values alignment evaluation should take place when hiring and throughout each team member’s career during the regularly occurring performance review process.

“Core values are the universal things you want to get right for someone to even be considered,” says Danny Kerr, co-founder of Breakthrough Academy. “There’s other preferences or abilities that are naturally inside of people that you can’t train. You can’t train someone to be introspective. They either are or they’re not.”

Glatt advises knowing yourself first and if you can’t name your top five values on the spot, you’re not ready to determine if someone else is a good fit to work with you.

Keep in mind your core values need to be the real values that drive your company, not what you wish they were, or what looks good on an office wall. Glatt says a lot of leaders will try to forecast their values down through the company.

“That just doesn’t work because a company’s values are the shared norms and expectations of everybody,” Glatt says.

He says value finding exercises should be a whole company process. Everyone should write down their values and then look for consistencies and chains of interaction to discover what values are already shared.

“When you’re trying to reset this, you have to figure out what everybody actually shares rather than trying to broadcast your own or even worse copying somebody else’s,” Glatt says. 

What Are the Right Seats?

“Once you have the right people on the bus, it’s thinking, ‘Okay, well, everybody has something different to offer,’” Kerr says. “Looking at how good you are at placement can really define how well your business can run.”

Navon says the seats are the positions in your company that are necessary to ensure effective and efficient operation. This will change over time as your business grows or the needs change. 

It’s important not to assume that your bus and the seats that came with it are the ones you have to have in your organization.

“Don’t go take someone else’s org chart, or even departmental chart, and think that’s what you need for your business,” Glatt says.

Instead, Kerr advises sitting down and going through your initiatives and what the financials are for the year, such as your projected revenue and overhead. Then with your given growth plans, determine roles you need to add to reach those goals.

“The more you get to know your numbers, the more you’re able to budget things out a year in advance, the easier it is going to be to recruit these people because now you have a year to hire them,” Kerr says.

Defining seats properly is not always an easy task. It calls for figuring out the strengths of your right people and not being afraid of a seat changing or failing.

“Getting to the right seats in our experience is done through both trial and error and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing,” Navon says. “But also, the seats need to be re-evaluated regularly, especially for growing businesses. The right seats change over time and seats are added too.”

Glatt says the right seat is one that is well-defined in terms of job expectations, has the necessary support and aligns with the employee’s personal and professional goals.

“If you’re wondering why people are leaving, and you’re thinking that it’s because you don’t have the right people in the right seat,” Glatt says. “Honestly what I think it is, is you’re not being adaptable enough and understanding your people enough to build the seats that they need.”

Getting the Right People in the Right Seats

Actually implementing the ‘right people, right seat’ mindset will vary if you are just getting your company off the ground or are already established. If you’re starting out and want to get this right from the get-go, it can be challenging as you need to get the right people on board and then define what the right seats are.

“Early on, having the right people is more important than the right seat,” Navon says. “If you find the right people (based on core value alignment during the interview process), then you’ll find your way to the right seats with proper discipline around running your business.”

If your company is already well-established but you’re wanting to improve your alignment, start looking at your company’s org structure. Outline the required roles and the expected deliverables for each role so they all create ROI. Kerr says this can help you see where some individuals are doing too much and a “job baby” can be born.

“To ensure the right seats, document your organization’s structure on an accountability chart,” Navon says. “This is grouped based on the functions of your business and sorted based on who reports to who. This might help clarify if there’s any misalignment or inefficiencies in your organization’s structure.”

Kerr says reorganizing can sort the wheat from the chaff. Often owners know who shouldn’t be there but don’t want to fire people.

Glatt says if someone isn’t a good fit in the company, he loves to help them find a new job, but the other option is to terminate an employee who doesn’t align with the business. 

“You have to decide one,” Glatt says. “70 percent of people just decide neither and keep paying this person to do mediocre work. That’s just a big failure to sit around and have somebody who is not a fit at all.”

Having someone in the wrong seat isn’t necessarily grounds for termination. Often if you have the right individual in the wrong seat, they just need a new role that is better suited for their skill set and/or interests.

“When we evaluate if we have the right person in the right seat, then we base this on GWC: Get it. Want it. Capacity to do it,” Navon says. “The right person needs to check all three boxes for the role in order to be considered the right person in the right seat.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.