When The Squeaky Wheel Gets Too Much Grease


I worked at an Advertising Agency on and off for 8 years. My boss and I would spend hours and hours focused on the issue of H.R. It was our Holy Grail. (It wasn’t part of my official job description, but it was an area that fascinated me, so I’d try to sneak into his meetings all the time. He always valued my input, because I’m judgmental and paranoid.)

We were hiring Salespeople, and the talent and skill combination we needed was essentially Acting Plus Specialized Technical Knowledge. It was the most difficult combination to find in people.

As a result, the sales department was a core of two or three immensely talented and self-managing people, and a revolving door of newbies that just didn’t have the gift. The best salesmen would spend their valuable sales time trying to fix the salesmen who were broken. It would infect the entire company.

Even the graphic artist and secretaries would be distracted by this problem. We’d have company meetings, analyze everyone, tell them to read books, try to figure out why they couldn’t do it. We’d make up rules, give them quotas, try and counsel them. No amount of micromanagement and training ever helped.

The squeaky wheel was getting too much grease.

Jim Collins has this concept called First Who, Then What — better known as “Getting The Right People On The Bus.” Since reading his book in 2001, I have followed this principle and it’s always worked like magic. 

The problem is that it can take a long time.

How long should you hold out? As long as you can. Having just one of these gifted, self-managing people will make up for the time and energy you would have wasted on the other fifty.

When you’re looking for The Right Person (whether it’s an employee, band member, co-writer, creative partner, or mate), you can try to quantify and measure it, but the truth is:

You will know it when you see it.

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2 thoughts on “When The Squeaky Wheel Gets Too Much Grease

  1. This is very sound advice. It took years to figure out, even with lots of evidence. I think it is one of those very obvious solutions that takes time to see because it requires a wide perspective that can only be gained through a lot of observation.

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