Employee reviews are a great time to provide feedback to your team members as well as encourage development and improve performance. It is a chance to reflect on the milestones achieved and set new goals. Regular reviews allow managers to praise positive behaviors, award well-earned promotions, and continue to bring out the best talent in each team member. During these reviews, you will start to see a pattern of performance on your team. How do you consistently create a team of top performers?

Top Performers

As a manager, creating a well-rounded and high-performing team is one of the most fulfilling aspects of leadership. Seeing and helping superstars develop, watching individuals become more confident with their unique abilities, and grooming the next generation of leader within the organization is incomparable.


Another aspect of management is the act of working with and coaching underperformers. Every department has them, every leader has struggled with them, and some may even have a few who come to mind immediately. They are the few who we try to encourage, who we try to train, and for whom we hold out hope that change will come, but it can seem like an endless cycle of performance management and frustration.

Levels of Performance

We all recognize “A” Players. These are the star performers, with the highest potential, and who can step up to and handle any challenge or new scenario. So where does that leave the “B” and “C” Players? “B” Players are competent, steady performers who balance their work and personal lives while still accomplishing what needs to be done. They stay in their lane, don’t require a great deal of attention, and they get the job done.

“C” Players often make up the smallest segment of the team, yet require the most time and attention. They are the employees with the most excuses – and their workload either gets passed to someone else or delayed altogether. They walk the fine line between “good enough to get by” and “committing an offense worthy of termination.” They are kept on the team primarily because hiring, training and managing someone you don’t know is sometimes more intimidating than continuing to deal with the perpetual issues they present.

Retaining the Best Talent

Most would agree that the ability to recruit and retain top talent is critical to the success of an organization. In his book Topgrading (How to Hire, Coach and Keep A Players), organizational psychologist and consultant Bradford Smart expands on the three levels of contributors within an organization. “Simply put, topgrading is the practice of packing the team with A players and clearing out the C players,” Smart writes. “A players is defined as the top 10 percent of talent available at all salary levels–best of class. With this radical definition, you are not a topgrader until your team consists of all A players. Period.”

Thus, again the question is raised: where does that leave the “B” and “C” Players? Smart writes: “Topgrading does not necessarily mean that you must fire every B player in your company; however, if you currently have less than 90% A-player employees, then you will likely engage in a painful, uphill battle.” Smart advocates that all companies should strive to hire 90% A-players, promote 90% A-Players, and eventually achieve 90% A-players in management.

Being Proactive vs. Reactive

Achieving a team comprised of 90% “A” Players might be a significant leap for many teams. Start by making proactive efforts to improve your future bench. Evaluate those on the team who would score less than a “B+” grade for competency, reliability, and consistency. Provide them with concrete feedback and opportunity for measurable improvement.

Focus on proactive hiring that improves the strength of your bench – not just hiring to fill empty seats. Spend less time addressing reoccurring performance issues and instead craft a hiring plan that proactively attracts the “A” or “B+” contributors to the team. Will 100% of an organization be comprised of “A” Players? Not likely. But be proactive in hiring replacements that will create a top-graded bench now and into the future.

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