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The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building Bus Seats

We are thrilled to share our blog today with BELAY client, Dr. Phillip Shero. He is the president of MasterMinds Leadership and an executive coach to CEOs and senior management teams.


Even if you’ve never read Jim Collins’ famous book, Good to Great, you’ve probably used his metaphor of getting employees in the “right seat on the bus.” Great companies obsess over hiring the right people.

When small businesses hire one wrong person, it has a disproportionate effect. On top of short-term damage, bad hires can hurt small companies long-term because they have less cash to cover losses; less time to invest in recruiting, onboarding, and training; and less margin to recover from setbacks.

“Defining job roles is not a natural competency for most entrepreneurs.”

You already know you should get people in the right seat, but the challenge is, you are not in the business of building bus seats – we call it Job Benchmarking. Defining job roles is not a natural competency for most entrepreneurs. That’s why we’ve created this short guide and downloadable Interview Score Card for your next seat on the bus.


The Entrepreneur’s Guide

#1: Define the Behaviors that support their tasks.

Behaviors are different from tasks. People can learn new tasks, but their core behavior patterns are much harder to change. The examples below compare common phrases from job descriptions with the underlying behaviors that support those tasks.

Tasks Behaviors
Filing, data entry, filling out forms Consistent: perform predictably in repetitive situations
Manage employee health plan, conduct root-cause analysis, review contracts Following Policy: adhere to rules, regulations, or existing methods
Answer phones, resolve complaints, responsible for in-bound sales Customer-Oriented: identify and fulfill customer expectations

Before you interview, jot down questions that will get your candidates talking about the 3-4 behaviors you know are required for the job.


#2: Describe the Driving Forces that will motivate them internally.

An individual’s driving forces explain why they act in certain ways and how much energy they bring to the job. If a candidate is not motivated by elements of the job, they will not perform at their best and will fail to meet your expectations.

  • A service-oriented job will naturally reward someone who is motivated toward helping others. Their driving force is Altruistic.
  • A job that is all about crushing goals and winning will naturally reward someone who is motivated by individual control and visible achievement. Their driving force is Commanding.
  • A commissioned sales job naturally rewards someone who is motivated by measurable return on investment of their time and effort. Their driving force is Resourceful.

Write the top 3-4 motivators that the job rewards. Then craft 1-2 interview questions to get candidates talking about situations that energize them and what they most enjoyed about previous jobs. You’re not listening for details, you’re listening for their driving forces.


#3: Clarify the people skills they need to succeed.

A resume lists hard skills (e.g. a degree in accounting or proficiency in Excel), but it can’t tell you how well the candidate has developed their people skills.

Of course, small business owners want every employee to be Self Starting, have strong Time & Priority Management skills, and be good at Problem Solving. But instead of building a bus seat for Superman, be realistic and think about the handful of soft skills that are most critical to success in the role.

Capture your list of 5-7 soft skills on the downloadable template and keep it at hand during the interview. Listen for real-life examples the candidate may offer that give evidence that they are aware of and use these skills. For any that don’t come up naturally, ask them to tell about a time when they had to face a challenge that you know would have required that skill and then pay attention to their response.

Putting the seat together.

Congratulations! You’ve built a bus seat defined by job-related behaviors, driving forces, and soft skills.

By following these three steps, you’ve gone far beyond the typical list of tasks, responsibilities, and hard skills found in a job description. You now have a three-dimensional picture of what kind of person is most likely to succeed in the role, and you have successfully benchmarked the job itself for an unbiased hiring search.

If you followed the download, you also have a scorecard to use in your interview process.

If you want to build a great company, you have to hire great people. This process can help you build the seat and be confident that you’re putting the right person in it.


Dr. Phillip Shero is the president of MasterMinds Leadership and an executive coach to CEOs and senior management teams. He lived in Uganda for 15 years, where he became the co-founder and first president of LivingStone International University, an accredited liberal arts institution dedicated to producing ethical and empowered leaders in Africa. His firm specializes in building high performing management teams and uses an objective and research-based approach to defining key positions for Job Benchmarking services. Dr. Shero writes weekly on leadership and publishes on LinkedIn.