Top Performers: Who Needs Them?  You Do.

Most would say that it is common knowledge teams need top players to compete and be the best.  This is true of business as well.  Businesses perform as well as the people within them are able to drive success.  However, there may be a challenge keeping these top performers from leaving your company. Top performers are typically more driven by success.  The more a top performer feels connected to a company through a clear understanding of opportunities and growth, the better.  In his book, How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team – Even if You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department, Herrenkohl talks about providing this connected feeling through leadership vision and clarity of role within a company (Herrenkohl, 2010).  Consider a sports team.  When the team understands the coach’s vision, it makes it much easier for individuals and the team to apply their skills in support.  This also allows a coach to help align a player’s talents to the vision, thus providing clarity around where the player fits within the team.

Some caution should be applied to always wanting top performers.  While the world would be great if everyone was a top performer, we are in a world of competition and comparisons. If you have a small team of top performers and you rank their value, you may consider the lowest performer to be replaceable. This could be a valid and justified action, but you may also find the person is a top performer in their given area once you compare with the market. I have observed top talent released from companies that follow the ‘forced curve’ for rating performance.  Incredibly talented people were released from the company only to find the replacement was a lower performer. One company even included a practice of releasing a percentage of top performers to ensure they did not get too comfortable in their position and lose energy.  The environment created was one of constant pressure to try and understand what it meant to be a top performer.

If you follow the teachings of Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, you would follow the 20/70/10 rule and shower your top performers with affection and various financial rewards (Murray, 2010). This way you keep your top performers motivated through incentives and rewards. These rewards should also include recognition like awards, promotions, etc.  More than once I have heard people say that money is not the typical reason for leaving a job, so it makes sense to ensure top performers are supported by an environment that promotes career and acknowledgement.

Ultimately everyone wants top performers and you need them.  It is very likely that your business will achieve greater success with staff that is capable of doing more than average.  The key is ensuring you are designing a company that will attract and retain these top performers. Just like picking players for a sports team, you want players that you don’t pick to be disappointed versus the alternative.



Herrenkohl Eric. (2010). How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team – Even if You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department. Wiley.

Murray, Alan. (2010). The Wall Street Journal. Essential Guide to Management.  HarperCollins Publishers

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