Pat Lencioni: ‘Get The Right People On The Bus’

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Even as leaders struggle with reconstituting “the office” and their operations post-Covid, the most important thing they must do is regenerate teams.

Patrick Lencioni is co-founder of The Table Group consultancy, a contributing editor for Chief Executive and bestselling author of several classics, most notably The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. At our recent Leadership Summit, Lencioni conceded that because of today’s “stresses on business and the customer and the economy and society, employees are worried, and in some cases rightly so.” 

But he said that even as leaders struggle with reconstituting “the office” and their operations post-Covid, the most important thing they must do is regenerate teams—and the sense of teamwork—within their organizations. 

Lencioni laid out three important steps to doing so: 

“Get the right people on the bus.” In addition to your company’s core values, Lencioni said, consider these three as “shorthand for who you want to hire”: humility, hunger and smarts. “If even one of these is missing,” he said, “you are in trouble.” 

“Hire people who are not ego-focused, but team-focused,” he said. And if someone is lacking humility, “don’t hire them.” 

“Hire people who are hungry. They’re hard to find,” Lencioni said. “That doesn’t mean workaholism but it doesn’t mean minimalism either. They want to keep going. Excellence to them is never quite finished.

“Hire people who are smart—not intellectually smart” necessarily, he said, “but smart about people. They just understand. And when they’re in a meeting, they know how what they say, or how they act, will influence others.” It means displaying “common sense around human beings.” 

Locating and hiring such people, Lencioni said, requires “not hiring for skills and hiring for attitude instead.” Get out from behind the interview desk and “take them shopping for underwear for your kids,” he quipped, “or take them to your kids’ soccer practice and have them organize the cones for a drill.” Such experiences will expose applicants’ “natural” behavior. 

“Put people in the right seats.” Lencioni identified six types of what he calls “working genius” that can help leaders utilize employees effectively based on their gifts. He identified them by the acronym WIDGET. 

• “W” is for wonder. “People aren’t usually rewarded for it,” he said. People with it “love to contemplate things, to speculate, to ponder: Why are things this way? Are our customers really happy?” 

• “I” is for invention. It’s a genius of people who “love to come up with new ideas and novel approaches.” 

• “D” is for discernment. “They have a good gut. They’re good at evaluating and assessing things.” 

• “G” is for galvanizing. These geniuses “love to get people excited and rally them.” 

• “E” is for enablement. Practitioners say, “I know what you need—I’m ready to go. They respond to what’s called upon, and people just think they’re nice—but it’s a genius.” 

• “T” is for tenacity. “They like to finish things and don’t rest until the impact has been had. If there’s a project that isn’t finishable, they get frustrated.” 

Using WIDGET to identify various forms of genius can help companies prevent losing people “because we’re not using them correctly,” Lencioni said. 

“Trust one another.” This pursuit is “not about predicting each other’s behavior” but, rather, promotes “vulnerability-based trust. You need to be raw and open. That changes everything. And the leader needs to go first.”

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