Noah The Barista at the Four Seasons
In his 2001 NY Times best-selling book Good to Great, Jim Collins says on page 43: First who?… Then What. We expected that good to great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats — and then they figured out where to drive it. The old adage “People are your most important asset” turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are. (Collins, 2001, p. 41)
I’m sorry, while I respect Mr. Collins, I must respectfully disagree… well in part. Please allow me to explain.
Who are the “right people?” And how do I find them? How do I engage them? How do I retain them? Business moves so much faster than it did 22 years ago. You could email the author at email@example.com back then. The Motorola Startac or Razor flip phone was all the rage in 2001; there was virtually no internet in 2001. And nobody would have ever believed that Apple was going to enter the cell phone business back in 2001.
My point is this: Life has changed. Business has changed. People change. If I identify the “right people” for the right seats on the bus, but they change, what do I do then? Keep churning though people looking for the next “right ones?” Is that how you would prescribe for a great marriage?
I think that Mr. Collins and I would agree that leadership is about creating the right environment for people to develop, grow, and succeed!
A Real-Life Example: Noah the Barista
I recently heard a story about a hotel guest at the at the Four Seasons Hotel. The guest went downstairs to get a cup of coffee at a quaint little bistro in the lobby. The coffee barista, Noah, was very enthusiastic and happy.
The guest asked Noah, “why are you so happy?”
Noah responded, “I just love my job and what I get to do!”
The guest intrigued said, “that’s great Noah! May I ask why?”
Noah said, “Here at the Four Seasons I feel so supported by my leadership. They are always asking me how I am doing, how it’s going, and if they can do anything to do help me improve the guests’ experience here at the Four Seasons.”
The guest nodded as he sipped his latte.
Then Noah said, “It’s a far different experience where I work at night as a barista at the hotel down the street.”
The guest licked the froth from the latte off his upper lip and said, “How so Noah?”
The barista threw his towel over his shoulder leaned over the glass counter containing all the pastries and said, “Well at the other hotel, management is always checking to make sure that we are crafting lattes by the book. It feels like they are always trying to catch us doing something wrong. They never seem happy, and I just don’t trust that they would have my back. So, we are cautious, I keep my head down, hope that I don’t get fired, and stay to collect the paycheck. I guess I just don’t thrive in that kind of environment, none of us do really.”
The Right Environment Attracts the Right People
So here is the leadership lesson: If the leader creates the right culture, they will attract the right people like Noah! If the leadership creates an unhealthy culture, they will attract people like Noah. It’s not about right or wrong people on the bus. It’s about creating a healthy corporate culture on your bus that will attract, develop, and retain the “right people”.
Companies move from good to great when they stop asking the question, “How do we get the best out of our people” and they start asking “How can we train and develop our people to become their best?” In my opinion the old adage “people are your most important asset” is still true today! It has withstood the test of time. If you want your business to thrive, you must create a healthy corporate culture one character at a time! You need to learn how to train managers to be leaders so every employee can thrive.