Car Buying like talent shopping

One of the most difficult tasks of a leader is to maintain a team of A players.  Steve Jobs once famously said “A players hire A players and B players hire C players.”  Research has shown that A players outperform B players 2x on essential tasks and 10x on creative tasks.  So why do so many leaders live with mediocre talent on their teams?  

A number of excuses come to mind why leaders don’t topgrade their teams.  The person has the capability to do better if given more time, they have been a loyal employee for a long time, they have special skills that would be hard to duplicate, and on and on.

The typical approach that leaders take is to let the problem fester until it becomes too late.  At that point they are forced to take action and terminate the under-performer, creating a hole with no clear succession plan.  When discussing talent management

strategies with our clients, Groove Management has found the following analogy to be very helpful when trying to drive talent management behavior change.

Think about the last time you bought a new car.  The scenario probably played out something like this.  

My current car is seven years old, it has over 130k miles on it, it is no longer performing up to snuff, it lacks the latest technology and safety features.  However, it still runs and gets me around.  Basically it gets the job done.  So as I drive around in my underperforming ride, I pull up to a light next to a shiny new car that looks excellent.  When the light changes the car speeds off leaving me with car envy. 

Later that day, I go online and Google the car from the stoplight.  I read through all the manufacturers literature, watch some videos, read customer reviews, then I look at other comparable vehicles in the same car class.  By the end of the day I have narrowed it down to a couple choices in my price range.  More importantly, I am sold on the need for a new vehicle.

Over the next several days, I continue to drool over different vehicles around town and commit to visiting a couple dealers over the weekend.  At the same time my dissatisfaction with my current car grows.  Every imperfection has been amplified by my research regarding a new car.

Over the weekend, I test drive a few cars and I am sold on one.  The salesperson asks if I have a vehicle to trade in?  Of course I do and I will take just about anything they will offer, because I am sold on the new vehicle.

Hopefully this sounds like a familiar car buying experience.  For some reason we seem to treat talent management quite differently.  The typical topgrading story involves figuring out what to do with the under-performer first and then
researching the replacement.  Figuring out a plan to sell my underperforming vehicle was not the driving force for change in the scenario above.

If you have an under-performer on your team, the best way to upgrade the position is to identify the replacement first.  Groove
Management refers to this approach as Forwardfilling positions.  Not backfilling, but forwardfilling.  The difference is a proactive approach and a look at the future needs of the organization, not just a replacement for the incumbent.

With a successor identified replacing an under-performer becomes a much easier task.  Think about your current team, identify your B and C players and go talent shopping.  When you find an A player, then you will be ready to topgrade the role.