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Brad & Geoff Smart
Introduction by Price Pritchett
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What’s the most powerful leadership skill you can have?

Hands down, it’s the ability to produce high-talent teams. Nothing else even comes close.

EVERYTHING ABOUT LEADERSHIP—yes, everything—starts with people. You, and the people you gather about you, have to come up with all the rest of what it takes to build and run an organization. Like a strategy . . . your products or services . . . the money required to keep the place running . . . the ideas, energy, and ambition that are needed. Every bit of this is born in the hearts, minds, and day-to-day behavior of human beings. The more talented your people are, the better this “everything else” will be.

And it cuts the other way, too. Surround yourself with weaker people, and you’re bound to end up with a weaker everything else.

So you’d think we’d all be determined to get mighty good at picking and choosing people. If this is the cornerstone for success as a leader, then why shouldn’t we find the very best methodology and work relentlessly to master it?

Well, we should. And the approach you’re looking for is laid out in this handbook. It’s based on the master work in the field—the Topgrading hardback that’s sold over 100,000 copies—together with the 40+ years of combined experience Brad and Geoff Smart bring to the table.

Brad’s been a dear friend since the beginning of my professional career when we worked at the same firm. I’ve known Geoff since the day he was born. The extreme talent, high drive, and finely tuned expertise of these two professionals epitomize what it means to be an A player. They’re the best in the business. Unquestionably.

They’ll both tell you, “Recruiting and selecting the kind of talent that can assure your success has never been a cakewalk, and never will be.” It takes know-how. Practice. Discipline. Topgrading gives you the technique. It’s the proven, premier methodology for producing high talent teams. Now the rest is up to you.

Just keep this in mind: Topgrading is a career-maker. Pick the right people, and your success is practically guaranteed.

- Price Pritchett, Ph.D.


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Chapter 1—

With more than 10,000 talent assessments under their belts, Brad and Geoff Smart are authorities on selecting top performers. Their work with a broad range of organizations— including GE, Honeywell, Lincoln Financial Group, and the American Heart Association—has helped them develop Topgrading as the platinum standard for talent assessment.

TOPGRADING simply means filling every position in your organization with an A player.

Now that sounds like a pretty straightforward concept. But right here we see the first two aspects of the Topgrading approach that make it starkly different from common hiring practices.

First, you target only the best people. Top-tier candidates. Ideally, nobody else is even allowed in the running. At the very outset you try to limit the field of possible contenders to A players. Just think about that. Rather than follow the conventional practice of more or less open-field competition, you narrow it down from the beginning. You restrict the pool of potential candidates to high talent. Pull this off, and it essentially guarantees that you’ll end up with a high performer. After all, the less promising people don’t even get admitted to the tryouts.

Second, Topgrading means you follow this practice in filling every position. Not just for a couple of key slots. Not just when you randomly get lucky and a bunch of great candidates throw their hats into the ring. You adhere to the same talent standards across the board—wall-to-wall, top-to-bottom. Doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to fill a slot on the shipping dock, out in the field, for the middle management ranks, or in the executive suite. You maintain the same discipline in your selection process. If you start out considering only top players, that’s what you’ll end up with. Everywhere.

So let’s nail down what we mean by the term A players. These people represent the top 10 percent of the talent available at a given salary level. In other words, A’s are the best-of-class performers in their particular compensation league. Some managers say they can’t Topgrade because they can’t afford A players. But our definition means “the top 10 percent of talent available for the bucks.” Some A’s are superstars, with strong potential for advancement. Others might not be promotable, but still give solid A performance in their current positions.

The rest of the people are considered B’s or C’s. B players are the next 25 percent in terms of talent. C players are those below the top 35 percent.

Once you’ve identified the appropriate compensation level for a specific job, you have a choice to make: “Do I hire an A, B or C player to fill the position?” Let’s presume that you’d readily opt for an A. Regrettably, most companies’ selection processes are so weak it’s hard for them to differentiate reliably among the three. That’s okay, our Topgrading interview process can take care of that problem.

But what if it so happens that your recruiting doesn’t produce any A candidates for the pay you’re offering? Do you compromise your standards? Should you up the ante and offer more money? Could you put better effort into your recruiting process and create a stronger slate of candidates?

You have to decide.

Far too many managers recruit poorly, then compound the problem with a flawed interview approach. As a result they chronically “settle,” hiring a B or C player for the price of an A player ticket. Money wasted!

Also, lots of companies are penny-wise and pound-foolish. Unwilling to spend enough to get the level of talent the position deserves, they set their pay scales so low that the people they attract would qualify for A status only in some lower-level job. Instead of laying out the cash it takes to Topgrade, they pay the far greater cost that under-hiring inevitably carries with it. Again, money wasted!

On the front end, Topgrading might hit you as unaffordable. Or too difficult. Even unrealistic. But experience proves that it’s the best bargain you’ll find for staffing your organization—by a long shot. You’ll also discover that the work it takes to hire A players is nothing compared to the never-ending struggle of managing B’s and C’s.


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End of sample.

This is a sample. Click here to purchase the digital book.