“First who, then what” is a concept Jim Collins uses to illustrate the importance of hiring the right people for your team in his book, Good to Great. Having the right people has to come before having the direction. In the book, Collins uses the metaphor of a bus. You are the bus driver and your team members are the passengers. Having the right people on the bus has to come before having the right direction. Destinations can change. Having the right direction will allow you to succeed no matter what the destination is. This advice can help make your construction leadership the best it can be.

Find the Right People for the Bus

Like great leaders, you should always be seeking the most talented people to bring on the bus. Once you have the best talent, then find the best place to put them. You should put a great deal of care in understanding the candidate’s specific hot buttons. By understanding what makes the candidate tick, you will be able to sell the company and opportunity in a way that will get the candidate most excited to join your team. Take advantage of what great leaders have taught us about the process. Use techniques to evaluate the quality of a candidate, including top industry-specific recruiting partners, well planned behavior-based interview questions, and strong references procedures. That way when you make a new hire, you’ll feel confident in your decision. If you are at all hesitant, don’t let that person on the bus.

Kick the Wrong People off the Bus

No one will make perfect hiring choices. A candidate might end up being different than how they presented themselves in the interview. Maybe they start out as the perfect employee, but their competence fades. When it becomes clear that an employee isn’t working out, you have to be firm in your decision. At the same time, you want to be compassionate about it. Don’t be ruthless. You don’t want to end up with disgruntled employees because this can have a negative effect on the company’s reputation.

Find the Right Seats for Each Person

There will be times when you have an employee who isn’t in the right seat. That doesn’t mean they’re not good employees. You want every single seat to have the right person in them. This might mean moving people around from time to time. You want intelligent, hardworking people on your team, so give these individuals a chance to prove themselves. They might struggle in one position but excel in another.

Always Start with Who, Not What

The construction industry is constantly changing, so you have to be able to adapt to these changes. Whether you are faced with an obstacle or you are presented with an opportunity, your first question should be “who?” not “what?” Who is the best person to overcome this obstacle? Who will take advantage of this opportunity the best? This approach will allow you remain flexible and solve every problem that comes your way.

Construction recruiting is challenging. With the skilled labor shortage, it’s tempting to settle for mediocre talent. In the long-run, your company will have much more success if the right people are on your team.

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