Core Values: Get the Right People on the Bus

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Several years ago, Jim Collins popularized the phrase, “Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus.” In his book, Good to Great, Collins points out that research suggests that the best leaders did not really start with vision and strategy. Instead, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.

Since 2001 when Collins first published his work, more and more business leaders have affirmed this philosophy. Great companies are built by teams of people who are motivated, committed, and aligned.

3 Reasons the Right People Are Important

First, if you have the right people who want to work together, the team can more easily make mid-course changes to direction as needed. In fact, many times team members will be looking ahead and will help steer the bus in the right direction.

Second, if you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away. Mutual accountability begins to take over because people genuinely want to work together and achieve their common objectives.

Third, if you have the wrong people, the direction doesn’t matter as much. You still won’t create a great company. As Collins said, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

How Do We Assure We Have the Right People?

The first step in finding or affirming the right people is to define your core values. Unfortunately, most organizations have not truly defined their core values. I’ve seen many businesses “state” a list of values but there is no honest assessment to determine if those values are real or just assumed. Most of the time they are just assumed.

Your core values are a small set of vital and timeless guiding principles. We suggest that you limit them to somewhere between three and seven, preferably three to five! Less is more. These core values define your culture and who you truly are as people.

It’s okay to have some “aspirational” values, but you must start with current reality. What is currently true in the hearts and minds of your key people? That will show you your “actual” values. At this point, the business owner or leader must do some serious soul searching and have some serious conversations with their best people. One of the ways I serve my clients is by facilitating these moments and these conversations.

Once the right core values are determined and the key leaders are aligned, then you must align your entire organization. I use a people analyzer tool to help my clients with this process.


When you are clear on your core values, you will find that they attract like-minded people to your organization. You will also find that whey they are applied, they will weed out the people that don’t fit or who do not want to grow with you. This is important because people who do not embrace your values will hurt the team and the organization. Therefore, once you define your core values, you must hire, fire, review, reward, and recognize people based on these values. This is how you build a thriving culture that produces a great company!

Get the Right People – Produce the Right People

It all begins with core values. Take an honest assessment of yourself, and then take an honest assessment of your best people. Start with what you know and what you have. As I mentioned earlier, it’s OK to have “aspirational” values. But be honest with yourself.

If you are not being intentional and focused on developing and nurturing those aspirational values, they are not aspirational.

They’re just talk, and it sounds like blah, blah, blah.

If you are truly aspiring for something that doesn’t currently exist, make sure you have a plan for development. Get a coach or an accountability partner – an outsider – to help you stay objective and stay honest with yourself. You can build a great team and a great company, but it all begins with having the right people on the bus; people who are aligned around the right core values.
If you’re looking for help with this, contact us for more information about our coaching services and how we help business owners build their teams and their companies.

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