Leaders know that their #1 competitive advantage is their people and most use some type of process to identify the current and future stars as well as those who will not be successful in their current roles. We know that the stars need extra attention to keep and develop them since they usually have lots of choices in the marketplace. But how many of us truly make nurturing stars one of our top priorities? And what happens, other than that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when a star announces his or her resignation? Jack and Suzy Welch’s recent column in Business Week magazine was extremely insightful and should be required reading for every leader.
The Care and Feeding of Stars
How much time do we spend trying to save or fix our worst performers? In truth, spending significant time trying to improve C players to B players has very little return. The real ROI is on helping, developing, coaching B players into A players (or at least B- to B+!).
Applebees restaurants for the last five years has utilized the Topgrading approach (Topgrading, Bradford Smart, 1997) at every store every six months to identify the A, B and C players. And store managers’ merit increases and bonuses are tied directly to retention of the A and B players.
The Welch’s make the point that “Poor performers need to know where they stand so they can start looking for the kind of work in which they will excel for the long term.” Jim Collins’ now famous quote sums it up nicely: “Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats.”
So when that star performer announces his/her resignation it usually means that either that person has truly outgrown the opportunities at your organization or leaders have missed something in terms of compensation, recognition, challenging assignments and/or a level of autonomy.
Trying to negotiate with or “buy” the star’s loyalty almost never works for the long term, and worse, may create even greater problems internally with your other stars who didn’t threaten to leave. Great companies constantly identify not only their current stars but the future ones, and always have the bench strength to know where they quickly find a ready replacement if they lose a star. For more information: