Getting Your Team in the Right Seats

Getting Your Team in the Right Seats
Thomas Thompson
April 12, 2022
min read

In his classic book, Good to Great, Jim Collins gives a handy metaphor for teams.


You are a bus driver. The bus, your company, is at a standstill, and it’s your job to get it going. You have to decide where you're going, how you're going to get there, and who's going with you.


Most people assume that great bus drivers (read: business leaders) immediately start the journey by announcing to the people on the bus where they're going—by setting a new direction or by articulating a fresh corporate vision.


In fact, leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.


Fantastic concept.  How do you implement it?


Stop doing for others what they can and should do for themselves.  

When you are doing what others can and should do for themselves, two things happen:

  1. You fail to get done what only you can and should do.  You are stuck in the weeds.
  2. You fail to develop your team. They can’t do their jobs well without you. 


So how do you identify where your team is “sitting on the bus?”


Run your team through the Can/Should Matrix.  I learned this from Integrus in one of their Leadership Breakthroughs and I’ve been using it with teams ever since.





  • On the left, you have what people CAN do.  They are good at this.  They know to make it work.  
  • On the right you have what people CAN’T do.  They lack the skill, knowledge, or training.
  • Across the top, you have what someone SHOULD be doing.  These are the activities and responsibilities that are on their plate.  The clear activities and priorities that are essential to their effectiveness.
  • And across the bottom, you have what someone SHOULDN’T be doing.  It is not their role.  They were not hired to do these things.


Write the name of every team member on a sticky note and then assign them to a place on the SHOULD/SHOULDN’T and CAN/CAN’T grid. Then, identify next steps.


  • If someone is doing what you CAN do and what you SHOULD do, then all systems are GO! This quadrant is where you want every person to move towards. This is the right seat on the bus. 
  • If someone is doing what they CAN do, but SHOULDN’T do, then they need to SHOW someone else how to do it (delegate) and move back up to the first quadrant.
  • If someone is doing what they CAN’T do, but SHOULD be doing, then they need to GROW, have an action plan in place to develop their competency so they can move to the left.
  • And if someone is doing what they CAN’T do, and SHOULDN’T do, maybe it is time to say NO and think about moving them to another seat or off the bus completely.


Most of the time, the Leader is the biggest “wrong seat” culprit.  Here is how:


Leaders who struggle to delegate and let go become stuck in SHOW.  They can, so they think they should.  And often they can do it better than their direct report.  But CAN ≠ SHOULD.  The problem is that getting stuck here means you are not living in your focus.  You are not tackling the tasks that only you can and should be doing.


So, once you have identified where your team is on this matrix, what can you do to move people around?


If the issue is a SHOULD/SHOULDN’T, you will need to use clarity.  Because someone is confused as to their priorities or responsibilities.  

If the issue is a CAN/CAN’T, you will need to use courage.  Because someone needs honest feedback about what the expectations are, how they are performing, and what they need to do to change.


PRO TIP:  Start with the top.  As the leader, identify the 5 things only you can do.  The 5 things that will make the biggest impact on the future of the organization.  You should be spending 80% of your time on these 5 things.  If not, you probably have a SHOW problem and need to delegate.

What is your next step for each team member to get them in the right seat on your bus?

I'd love to talk with you more about that. Shoot me an email and let's get your team in the right seats.

I founded Thompson Leadership to come alongside leaders like you. Together, we will unpack your unique leadership, unearth your biggest challenge, and create an action plan to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
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