Top Grading Your Organization


As a leader, it's important to find the best people and not to settle for the "B" and "C" players.

Recently, my good friend Steve Moore and I were talking about hiring new team members at our organizations. He reminded me of a book called Top Grading by Bradford Smart. It’s a leadership book about the kind of team members every organization needs to hire and develop. Top-grading means filling every role in your organization with “A” Players. “A” players are the top 10% of the people available for the position you need to fill.

McKinsey research shows the difference in performance between top performers and average performers in salespeople is up to 250%, and in knowledge workers it is 100%. The stakes are higher than ever regarding getting the right people in the right roles on the job. Author Larry Bossidy writes, “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies. This is the job no leader should delegate; having the right people in the right place.”

You don’t necessarily save money by hiring less expensive team members. They may cost you if they don’t generate both mission and money by their performance.

So, just what do “A” players look like? A short list would be:

  • They make things work
  • They push for progress
  • They come up with solutions
  • They are magnets for other content
  • They can exist at all roles / levels of the organization

Further, you should know that “B” and “C” players:

  • Impede an organization’s performance Resist change and even encourage status quo
  • Stifle creativity
  • Tend to hire people like themselves who don’t threaten their job which further weakens the organization

So, What Do You Do as a Leader?

1. Determine what actions you must take to support and grow your “A” players.
2. Re-deploy “B” and “C” players to other roles where they can become “A”s.
3. Don’t let low performers consume most of your management time.
4. Instead, proactively invest time in your “A” players.
5. You must have the courage to remove low performers…fast.
6. Consider the legal obligations you have and be humane and life-giving.

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