If you ask a business owner about their key to success, you’ll often hear some attribution to the people in the company. “Get the right people in the right seats” is a phrase you hear often in the business world, but beyond a popular mantra, what is it really all about?

Taken from Jim Collins’ first bestseller Good To Great, The ‘Right People’ part refers to the employees who share your company’s core values and proactively help to support a company culture based on those values. 

The Right Seat means an employee is working within their area of strongest skillset and ability. It refers to an employee operating in a role that allows them to shine and make the best contribution.

So Right People, Right Seats seems fairly straightforward—a basic prerequisite for hiring employees, right?

Not always.

More often than not, companies find they have the right people, but after some time realise they’re not quite in the right seats. 


Let’s take an employee who embodies a company’s core values, is loved by other employees, and is generally nice work with. The problem is that they are not in the best role for them, which means their performance isn’t always strong, and their tangible contribution to the company can be debated. Right Person, Wrong Seat.

Now let’s look at an employee who is extremely talented at their job. 

They hit targets, are highly skilled at their tasks, and may even be one of the company’s top performers. The only problem is that they don’t fit into your culture. They don’t share your core values, or they can sometimes seem like they’re a great fit one minute, and the complete opposite the next. 

It can feel tempting to ignore their lack of company fit because of the great work they do. Right Seat, Wrong Person.

And so getting the ‘right people in the right seats’ seems like a fairly simple piece of advice, but the application is often a challenge for business owners.

Building an adaptable team with the right people in the right seats

1. Identify your core values

It may seem like obvious advice, but it’s commonly overlooked in business. To build a strong and adaptable team that embody your company’s core values, you need to get crystal clear on what those values are.

To help businesses get clearer on this, we use the EOS® Vision Building session to understand where employees fit alongside their core values. It works as a rating system, where we analyse the extent to which team members exhibit a particular core value. 

By stepping back and mapping out your core values in this way, it’s easy to see how well employees resonate with the company and whether any adjustments need to be made.

2. Hire people who embody your core values (and train later)

When interviewing and hiring, deeply consider whether the candidate shows a connection to your company, as well as the obvious suitability for the role. 

It is much easier to train someone on a job than it is to train someone on your core values.

Effectively recruiting people of exceptional talent and who fit the company culture is the first (and clearest) step to having an advantage and building an adaptable team.

Tailor your interview questions around the challenging aspects of the job, take the time to understand the candidate’s priorities, and give them room to shine and showcase their expertise and talent.

3. Make sure leadership seats are 100% right

When you’re evaluating your team, it’s not always possible to ensure every seat is filled by the right person. However, it’s crucial that 100% of the key seats are filled with the right people. 

You can’t skimp on the quality of your leadership executive team. If you think someone in the team is not the right “who”, analyse why this might be the case, verbalise your concerns and make your expectations very clear before you consider making any changes.

4. Give employees the chance to prove themselves

If you find yourself questioning an employee’s suitability, give that person the benefit of the doubt by assuming they are the right person, they’re just in the wrong seat. Always give people a chance to prove themselves in a different area before deciding that they’re not the right person for the team.

If they are the right person, invest in development so they can work to their best skillset. First who, then what.

5. One person per seat

A common problem within leadership teams is two or more people sitting in the same seat. For example, in a group of partners where it’s not clear who the primary Director is, or Head of the Company seat. 

In such teams, it’s common to hear things like, “We’re all responsible for client acquisition”, or “We all deal with innovation”. But what this really means is that no one is being held accountable for the job that needs doing.

It doesn’t mean that one person has to have a particular job title to differentiate them as the “Head of Innovation”, for example. But it does mean that everyone should be clear on who to go to in order to find out about that particular area of business.

Getting the right people in the right seats with the EOS Model®

When it comes to building an adaptable team, you want a strong group of executive leaders, not a group of people following a CEO. 

To go from good to great, it’s important to prioritise the “who” before the “what”, which means the focus should always be on bringing in the right people, then getting them to their right seats. 

That’s exactly what EOS® helps business owners do. It’s a simple framework to help you define what’s important and shows you what success looks like. 

No duct-tape quick fixes. The EOS Model® uses a holistic approach that goes deep into the six key components of your business and uses a clear framework for strengthening each one so your business can make a permanent change. You can read more about taking your business from good to great with a free first chapter of Traction—and book a free consultation call to find out exactly how EOS® can help you take your business to the next level.

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