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

2 thoughts on “Top Performers: Who Needs Them?  You Do.”

  1. Hi Tony,

    I think having a team of top performers can be a good thing if everyone brings different, but complementary hard skills and compatible temperaments. I once worked for a startup database marketing company and everyone one on the team was a top performer in their own right. Working together, we grew the company quickly.

    The founder, however, was reluctant to give up control. While many of us had significant stock options designed to keep us with the firm, the founder’s insistence on making decisions that affected the company without engaging the employee board ultimately led to the company’s demise.

    So, hiring a team of A-Players is smart. But as a founder, you have to be willing to listen to their input and occasionally abide by their experiences. When growing a startup the phrase, “Many hands make light work,” definitely holds true.

  2. I agree that companies want to have top performance employees to stay at their company and are being rewarded. These top performers do tend to stay in the company for many years but, what happens when they get old? Top performers will grow into the routine of how it has always been and follow routines. Lower performers should also get some type of incentive so they can also help the company progress. Usually, the lower performance would be the new people but just because they are new does not mean they will do bad. They will be the ones with new fresh ideas and if they are younger they would know how to appeal to the younger people.

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