Jim Collins just did an amazing event talking about some of the principles from his most recent book BE 2.0 (Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0): Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company, co-authored with Bill Lazier.

Having done a number of events with Jim – big, small and intimate, and in this format – I was very impressed with this exceptional virtual session. The format was outstanding, and we didn’t feel the need to be there, in the same room, with him. We also had break-out groups so that participants could meet and interact with each other.

While he talked about many things, one of the attending CEOs said that most impactful were Jim’s simple and powerful questions used to decide whether to develop or replace someone on your team:

Jim Collins’ 7 Questions for People Decisions

  1. Are you beginning to lose other people by keeping this person in the seat?
  2. Do you have a values problem, a will problem or a skills problem?
  3. What’s the person’s relationship to the window and the mirrors? The right people look out the window when things go right, giving credit to others. The wrong people look in the mirror assigning credit to themselves.
  4. Does the person see work as a job or a responsibility?
  5. Has your confidence in the person gone up or down in the past year?
  6. Do you have a bus problem or a seat problem?
  7. How would you feel if the person quit?

We’ve used these questions hundreds of times, with different teams, since I learned them a few years ago. We’ve even built them into quarterly and semi-annual reviews of people in the most important roles in a company, to guide our decision-making and to give feedback to individuals.

When and How to Make People Decisions

Interestingly, most of the time, we end up using the questions to see what we can do to develop and grow the person further – not to decide to replace them on the spot. The answers can give you insights about the specific things that are working and not working – and the teams often team get epiphanies they need to do something differently that gives the person a better chance of success.

I call this ‘eliminating the management variable’. We, as managers, might not be giving people the right feedback, direction or clarity about what great looks like in their role and specifically what behaviour or performance currently isn’t that great; and directing them towards positive change.

Once we’ve made sure we are not in the way or failing to give them what they need, we will see, over a subsequent quarter or two, either notable improvement or growth, or if we need to make a different decision.

Final note: If your answer to #7 is “relieved, excited, overjoyed, thankful” or you want to offer some gesture of appreciation or celebration, it means you are not doing your job. You are waiting for your employee to make a tough call when, really, it’s yours to make.

In the worst-case scenario, when someone does need to move on from your organization, remember to treat them with dignity and respect (unless they have done something horrible to deserve otherwise. Even then, hold yourself to the highest standard of your values and professionalism.)

Remember, you or someone in your company made the hiring choice or gave them that promotion or added responsibility or has tolerated that behaviour or lack of performance for a long time. They are not the guilty party, so allow them to hold their head high, whenever possible.

The Challenge

  • If you have challenges with someone on your team use these questions as a guide to develop or replace them.

PS – Our team has masterful tools, so please contact us if you need help:

  • With challenging people decisions
  • To decide how to strengthen the individuals on your team or to improve your team as a whole
  • To clarify and master some of the principles Jim Collins talks about.

Listen to this episode of The Growth Whisperers podcast for more about this.


Lawrence & Co’s work focuses on sustainable and enhanced growth for you and your business. Our diverse and experienced group of advisors can help your leaders and executive teams stay competitive through the use of various learning tools including workshops, webinars, executive retreats, or one-to-one coaching.

We help high-achieving leaders to have it all – a great business and a rewarding life. Contact us for simple and impactful advice. No BS. No fluff.