People First. Strategy Second.

I was sitting in the audience of 15,000 yesterday eagerly anticipating the entrance of leadership and performance catalyst Jim Collins for his his keynote at the 63rd Annual SHRM Convention & Expo.

How would one of the best business performance minds on the planet approach the world’s largest single gathering of Human Resources professionals?

With a message that aligned perfectly and was all about people.  His own personal mantra?

Life is people.  

Which is all about honoring our relationships. Honoring the people around us.

It all starts and ends with people.

He had me at hello and was crystal clear in his message: “It ALL begins with people.   Right people on the bus.  Right people in the right seats on the bus.  Then we can drive.  FIRST who.  THEN what.  The single most important skill for an Executive?  The ability to pick the right people, to make disciplined people decisions and get the right people in the right jobs.”

When it comes to selection, hire people who exhibit these 6 characteristics:

1. Share the core values of the organization
2. Don’t need to be tightly managed
3. Understand they do not have a job, they have responsibilities
4. Do what they say they will do 100% of the time
5. Window/Mirror maturity – give credit away and accept blame and responsibility when things go wrong
6. The right people are aligned with their passion, genetically coded to do the work and can add real value

People fist. Strategy second.

What is interesting about the work of Jim Collins and his 4 bestselling books is they aren’t really a study in success. They are a study in contrast between good and great. Success and failure.

His BIG lesson? “Greatness is not a function of circumstance.  It is a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”

Good is the enemy of great.

The throttle on growth is people.  The decline is to allow growth, revenue and profits to exceed getting the right people and the people strategy right.

Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty and chaos and others don’t?  3 reasons:

1. Fanatic Discipline: Disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and then take disciplined action (antithesis of bureaucracy – purpose of bureaucracy is to deal with undisciplined people).  Discipline is about consecutive, consistent performance.

What is your 20 mile march?

The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change, it is chronic inconsistency.

2. Empirical Creativity – Big bets go on what had been empirically proven.  Big shifts and decisions are not based on assumption, intuition and chance. You have to do the homework and have proof!

The genius of AND: Creativity and Discipline.  The creativity is not the hard part.  The discipline is the hard part!  Creativity is the natural human state. Creativity is natural and abundant. If you breathe you are creative.  Discipline is not. The really rare combination of discipline and our natural creativity amplifies the creativity.

3. Productive Paranoia –The only mistakes you can learn from are the one’s you survive. Hedge against uncertainty.  You ultimate plan to hedge uncertainty is having the right people strategy.

The great winners are not luckier.  It isn’t luck.  Everyone gets good luck and bad luck.  The real question is what are you going to do with the luck that you get?  The winners multiply their luck.

The Jim Collins To Do List:
1. With your team download and use the Good to Great diagnostic tool
2. Get the right people into the key seats. What are the key seats? What % of those seats do you have filled with the right people?
3. Banish the word job and replace it with the word responsibilities
4. Set a BHAG. Measure results.
5. Commit to a specific 20 mile march
6. Start a stop doing list (if you have more than 3 priorities it means you don’t have any). For 10 working hours every 2 weeks turn off all electronic gadgets – you cannot have disciplined thought without pockets of quietude
7. Get a high return on your next luck event
8. Become a who luck event for a young leader – MENTOR!
9. Commit to challenging our young leaders to be Level 5
10. Find and stay within your own personal hedgehog (what you are passionate about – what you are best at – what can drive your own economic engine)

A closing thought on success:  “Instead of thinking about how to be successful focus on how you can be useful.”

Thank you Jim.  Thank you SHRM.

Programming Note: We look forward to continued success in our partnership with SHRM.  I will be delivering keynotes at the remaining SHRM events in 2012:

PIHRA, August, 29 in Anaheim, CA
NDSHRM, September 26 in Bismarck, ND
IASHRM, September 27 in Des Moines, IA
BNHRA, October, 3 in Buffalo, NY
MNSHRM, October 15 in Rochester, MN
HR New England, October 29 in Bretton Woods, NH

 For 2013 programming inquiries please contact Lynn Mandinec.

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