How To Turn Good People Into Top Talent

tuning good people into top talentIn 2007 I wrote the book, Turning Good People Into  Top  Talent: Key Leadership Strategies For A Winning Company, which became an Amazon Best-seller. The  premise, inspired by Winning by Jack and Suzy Welch, is that winning companies play a bigger game by  providing unanticipated value. This means the  company establishes itself as a strategic partner rather  than a price-based commodity vendor by routinely  delivering more value than the customer anticipated.  The key is that only top talent will have the capacity to  consistently provide this level of value to customers.


In their book, Winning, the authors remind us of that the typical organization has 20% top performers who need to be appropriately resourced and left alone. During his tenure as CEO of GE, Welch would systematically insist that the bottom 10% be gracefully dismissed. The emphasis, therefore, is on the middle 70%, the heart and soul—central core—of the organization. Of particular importance are those in the top 20% of this central core—the valuable middle. Unless these workers are appropriately recognized, they will leave in frustration for a place that appreciates them. I call this group “the good people” that can be turned into top talent.

In a recent issue, Wall Street Journal Leadership Expert Tom Gimbel offered tips on spotting the players managers can develop into stars. Gimbel identifies the following three types of people as A, B and C Players which are somewhat parallel to Welch’s “10/70/10” concept:

1. A Players, the top producers, are a manager’s favorite because they over-deliver, follow up on what they promise to, and rarely disappoint. They need minimal direction and even less motivation to work hard to improve and get better, and don’t wait around to execute. They ask for forgiveness, not permission.

2. C Players, the under-performers who, in most cases, aren’t motivated to improve. They are OK with just clocking in and clocking out.

3. B Players fall in the middle and in most companies, they make up the majority. Half of this group can slip into C-player territory, but half are high-potentials, meaning if noticed by management and given the right coaching and development, they can become A Players.

According to Gimbel the problem is, many managers focus only on their top talent, and they don’t focus on their B Players either because it’s hard to identify them, or because it takes too much time to coach and develop them into A players. Gimbel provided the following key identifiers of B Players:

1. They deliver. While they may not be bringing new ideas to the table, they execute on what they have been asked to do. There may be flaws in their work, but respond positively to feedback and coaching.

2. They’re helpful. High potential B Players are most successful at helping others when they are given clear instructions on the task at hand.

3. They’re curious. High-potential B Players can be spotted by the types of questions they ask. They curiously ask, “Why?” because they are curious about how it helps the business.

4. They are flexible. B Players are open to change, whether it’s a change in where their desk is, or who they report to. They don’t complain. They know what is good for the company is good for them. They do what they are asked and take direction really well.

Just as the “good people” people mentioned in my book, the B Players will leave for a company that recognizes their potential. When that happens your talent pipeline will begin to dry up. Therefore, highly effective managers and team leaders are the key to turning your good people (B Players) into top talent (A Players).

Three of the ten element s of The Total Talent Management System™ which was developed by the team at the Talent Management Institute address the requirements to assure that you attract, select and fully develop good people who can become fully engaged top Talent.

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