I keep reading articles on how to get the top performers, the best and the brightest, the “A” talent, the better than everyone else and, quite frankly, I’m bored with it. Plus I think it’s just plain silly.
Stop what you’re doing right now. Look around. How many people (besides yourself, of course, because you are a diamond) are top performers? Right. Maybe one, huh?
Why is that? Because not everyone can be a top performer—if everyone was, the definition would be redundant.
Besides, trying to find only the top performers (or even emphasizing these people in your workforce planning and recruitment philosophy) is ultimately self-defeating. Thought leaders (or whatever) might take your business to the next level, but Regular Jo(e)s run it on a day-to-day basis. Everything Jo(e) does defines the average: Jo(e) is a 3 out of 5 on performance reviews; Jo(e) has a mediocre management style; Jo(e) has an uninspiring personality; Jo(e) will not grow your company. S(he) is your always on time, conservatively dressed, boring at parties, stay with you for 30 years workhorse.
For all these reasons and more, Jo(e) is irreplaceable. Even if a company has a top performer waiting in the wings (ESPECIALLY if they have a top performer waiting in the wings), they need to think long and hard about the makeup they really need in that department. In many instance, and in many positions, top performers will not build their business—not in the long run, anyway. In fact, they may very well tear it down. Such is the top performer personality. Those who are at the cutting edge of their field have to build/create/experiment/discover. And this creates instability, the opposite condition of what Jo(e) creates in the same position.Their desire for novelty and challenge will often compel them to move on after a relatively short time (whether is upward through the same company or outward to the company’s competitors is an open question). Too much of this will have a destabilizing effect. Worse, it may snowball into higher turnover, even amongst the Regular Jo(e)s.
By the way, top performers are not the bellwethers for business health: these folks know how good they are and will leave when it suits them. It’s when Regular Jo(e)s start to leave that a company is heading for bankruptcy.
Which is generally not a good thing.