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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on this Topic in 21 Years
I have been a professional recruiter for over 21 years. Topgrading is the best book that I have read on the topic of selecting impact performers. This book is a valuable read for both hiring managers and candidates. The appendix is worth the price of the book by itself.
I have recommended this book to my clients on my recruiting contracts because many have never...
Published on Oct. 21 2003 by Bill Humbert

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3.0 out of 5 stars Topgrading - how Leading Companies Win by hiring,Coaching and Keeping the Best People
Filter what you read, January 7, 2007

I finished re-reading a book this morning called "Topgrading - how Leading Companies Win by hiring, Coaching and keeping the Best People" by Bradford Smart. The thesis of the book is great companies always look to upgrade their people and that a top 10%er can way out perform someone less.

One challenge I have...
Published on Feb. 5 2007 by J. Estill


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3.0 out of 5 stars Topgrading - how Leading Companies Win by hiring,Coaching and Keeping the Best People, Feb. 5 2007
Filter what you read, January 7, 2007

I finished re-reading a book this morning called "Topgrading - how Leading Companies Win by hiring, Coaching and keeping the Best People" by Bradford Smart. The thesis of the book is great companies always look to upgrade their people and that a top 10%er can way out perform someone less.

One challenge I have with the book is it is never black and white. Most people have some good and some challenge areas. I also suggest that we can never truly grade people due to the complexity. This is the problem with most incentive systems. By nature they are short term and therefore wrong. The only true performance should be measured over a decade or decades. A quarter or a month is a ridiculously short time to try to measure performance on.

I also think it is crazy to think companies can figure out in advance who will truly be their top performers. I do agree that past performace can be an indicator but companies vary tremendously so it has to be a mix of the person with the company and environment.

One area that I need to up my game in is coaching. I can likely get good returns by investing more here. At the same time as I write this, I have concerns that coaching can be arrogant. I have seen many leaders not add value by meddling in other peoples' areas. Just because someone is a leader does not mean they know how someone else should do their job.

My belief is the success of people is largely determined by the company. Great companies set themselves up to maximize talent and build themselves to take advantage of each individuals' unique gifts.

And of course while reading it, I cannot help but think how I can make myself into one of the top 10 percenters. I have now added this to my goal list and will be charting a plan.

Overall it is a good thought provoking book even though I disagree with some of the theories he expounds.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on this Topic in 21 Years, Oct. 21 2003
By 
Bill Humbert (Park City, UT United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
I have been a professional recruiter for over 21 years. Topgrading is the best book that I have read on the topic of selecting impact performers. This book is a valuable read for both hiring managers and candidates. The appendix is worth the price of the book by itself.
I have recommended this book to my clients on my recruiting contracts because many have never been taught how to conduct a structured interview. Consequently, they tend to ask one set of questions to one candidate and another set of questions to another candidate for the same job. How will they be able to compare the two candidates? Brad Smart gives them a nice track to run on.
My only major difficulty with the book is the amount of time between the initial interview and the final interview a month later. In my experience as a professional recruiter, that is too long between interviews. In recruitment, time is your enemy. There are too many companies who are searching for A Players. You could lose an A Player easily within a month to another, more efficient company. As our economy moves from the Baby Boomers as the primary workforce to the Gen X'ers, we are about to experience a shortage of workers. If you wait too long to extend an offer, the Recruiterguy will get them!
On the other hand, Brad's reference checking information is so valuable that I have been teaching my clients to use it. I agree with him that it is important for the hiring manager to conduct the reference checks. It's simple psychology. If I call the manager of a candidate and identify myself as a recruiter, the former manager will give me some information about the candidate. However, their perception is that I am not their peer (unless they know me from a previous relationship). However, if the hiring manager calls the former manager, they are peers and the information given and received will be much more valuable.
The 50 manager competencies listed in the appendix are great tools for developing a structured interview and Job Description. They are also valuable for candidates who need to prepare for interviews by giving examples of their competencies.
Is Topgrading perfect for every interviewing situation? There probably isn't a perfect book. However, this one is easy to read. Take the valuable information that he offers on the interviewing process, the reference checks, and coaching (and protecting) A Players and you will be way ahead of most hiring managers.
If you are a candidate searching for your next job, Topgrading is a must read for you. He asks some tough questions. Some people may be offended. However, I agree with his points. Use the sample competencies in the appendix to strengthen your interviewing skills.
Pick up the book. You will benefit from reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Billy Strayhorn was right: "Take the A Train", June 4 2003
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
Smart formulated what he calls the Chronological In-Depth Structured (CIDS) interview approach. After studying 4,000 managers in relation to (on average) ten different jobs per manager, he arrived at a number of conclusions. They serve as the core material of this book in which he explains how both companies and individuals can gain and then hold a competitive advantage which Peter Drucker identifies as follows: "The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one of the last reliable sources of competitive advantage, since very few organizations are very good at it." As Smart carefully explains, topgrading is the practice of packing any team with A players and clearing out the C players. "A player [italics] 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 [last three words in italics]. Period." Those who read this book and then apply the principles, strategies, and tactics which Smart recommends will be well-prepared to (a) hire only A players or those almost certain to become one and (b) those who are or wish to become A players and need expert guidance to achieve that objective.
For me, the most stunning revelations in the book are found on page 50, in Figure 3.2, "Cost of Miss-Hire Study Results." According to the results of Smart's research study of more than 50 corporations, the sum of costs of a mis-hire (on average) are as follows:
Base salary Less than $100,000: 14 times salary
Base Salary $100,000-250,000: 28 times salary
All Salaries: 24 times salary
Now go back and re-read those statistics while keeping in mind that, for various reasons which Smart briefly explains, "the numbers are probably conservative." Organizing his material within two Parts (one for companies, another for individuals), Smart offers a cohesive and comprehensive narrative within which he includes all manner of graphic illustrations as well as a number of exercises and questionnaires which enable both those who hire and those who are candidates to understand what topgrading is, what the CIDS interview approach is and how to derive the greatest benefits from it.
Most important of all), Smart explains how to achieve what Jim Collins describes so well in his most recently published book: the good to companies "...first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats -- and then they figured out where to drive it. The old adage 'People are the most important asset' turned out to be wrong. People are not [italics] your most important asset. The right [italics] people are." Presumably Smart would agree that the right people share the same values and, together, sustain their organization's commitment to those values. If involved in their organization's recruiting and interviewing process, as they should be, they will help to ensure that the right people will be hired (i.e. allowed on the "bus"). Obviously it is important to get talent and task in proper alignment. It is equally important to keep an organization's values in proper alignment with its objective(s). Although Collins does not use the term, the good to great companies he discusses are all topgraders.
The reader will especially appreciate having the information provided by Smart in (count 'em) seven appendices: CIDS Interview Guide, Career History Form, In-Depth Reference-Check Guide, Interview Feedback Form, Sample Competencies -- Management, and Sample Competencies -- Wm. M. Mercer. Here in a single volume is about all anyone needs to know and have inorder to understand what topgrading is, how it works, and why it will probably be essential to those who hire as well as to those whom they consider.
Lest there be any misunderstanding by anyone reading this review, I want to point out that any organization (regardless of size or nature) can be a topgrader and that is even more important to smaller organizations with limited resources. Why? Because the cost of a miss-hire could be catastrophic, not only in terms of total compensation but also in terms of mistakes, failures, alienated customers, lost business, wasted opportunities, and disruption of the workplace. Some may respond, "I cannot afford to hire all A players even if I could find them!" On Smart's behalf, I presume to reply that no organization can afford NOT to hire only A players or those who, with proper development and supervision, can become A players.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Its Elegance is in its Simplicity, Feb. 25 2002
By 
Jay Avelino (CLEARWATER, FL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
I don't think Dr. Smart has written a book whose attraction lies in it being so cutting edge, ahead of the curve, prototypical, etc., that the reader will be awestruck by its profundity. It's not one of those "concepts-of-the-month" processes. Instead, the author has espoused some reasonably simple truths about what happens when you hire top performing people and conversely when you don't. You either wind up with a pre-eminent company blowing the doors off all goals and objectives---or you're an also ran.
What it pertinent is that he does this with a very persuasive communication style that makes the compelling case that while we may recite in rote fashion the "need" to hire, develop and retain "A" players, we apparently don't have the will or the system to do so. By his peeling back the bandage we are forced to come to grips with this condition. He does so with a non apologetic, unflinching manner. The good news is he then provides us with a formula and a real system to correct the problem. That is the genuine value of the book. While agreeing to be our mentor and guide through this morrass we call the hiring dilemna, he places the solution firmly in our hands to move forward with it if we're willing to commit to that course. My company did just that. We fully embraced Dr. Smart and his process, and can therefore attest to the fact that it will work if you "work it", (albeit not without a few missteps on our part). We are a testamonial to the success and the power of this program and I urge you to read the book and consider its applicability for your corporate situation.
Good Luck!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Topgrading is all about commitment to excellence, Feb. 14 2002
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
After personally going through the CIDS interview process, I could not wait to apply it from a best pratices methodology to subsequent organizations I would in the future be building.
In a word...wow !
It immediately supported the right vision and culture, the sustainable leadership required to achieve speed to revenue and the best platform for scalability in building an organization.
Topgrading should be the fundamental recipe for optimal operational performance for any business that aspires to achieve excellence... like the Telecom industry for instance, as well as the Venture Capital community.
Brad Smart is incredibly right on not only with the CIDS process but his in depth analysis on mis-hires should provide a wake up call to any poorly performing company as well as any substantive HR professional as it relates to their accountabiltiy for bringing the very best talent.
I think that any reviews written positively or negatively are direct reflection on that persons' station in life...as an A, B, or C player.
This is excellent book and resource.
You either get it or you don't... run but you cannot hide
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Selecting A players and removing C players", April 15 2001
By 
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
"After studying literally thousands of successful and failed careers, and over one hundred successful and failed companies, one overriding factor emerges: talent. Human capital. The single most important driver of organizational performance and individual managerial success is talent. The ability to actually do what every company and every manager professes to do-hire the best-is what distinguishes premier companies from mediocre firms, successful versus ordinary careers. The vast majority of organizations and managers simply can't figure out how to overcome the many obstacles to packing their team with A players...Topgrading shows you how premier companies such as General Electric gain a talent advantage, how every manager can benefit from learning leading-edge techniques. Jack Welch, Chairman and CEO of GE, said, 'The reality is, we simply cannot afford to field anything but teams of A players.'"
In this context, Bradford D. Smart;
* defines topgrading in simple terms and then presents short examples of companies that topgrade,
* presents (i)the major pyschological and organizational obstacles to topgrading, and (ii)the best practices to overcome them,
* presents a groundbreaking quantification of the costs associated with making hiring mistakes,
* discusses the moral issues in firing people,
* examines recruitment approaches and offers improvements,
* presents you with nine keys to becoming an A player at the highest level,
* helps you fix your weaknesses, which is more important than spending additional time developing your strengths,
* explains the Chronological In-Depth Structured (CIDS)-based coaching and interview principles, and presents three case studies to apply these principles with finesse and ease,
* presents the CIDS interview model in its entirety-what it is, advanced interviewing tactics, and how to avoid employement-related legal problems.
Finally, he writes, "Everyone wants to know the key to individual and corporate success. I think I know. Forty-thousand case studies devoted to scrutinizing 50 competencies provide some clues. Jack Welch of GE asked me which, of all those competencies, was the single most important for helping someone become an A player. Larry Bossidy of AlliedSignal asked the same question. So did Ted Waitt, CEO and largest shareholder of Gateway. After the CIDS interview, managers frequently say, 'Wow, Doc, since you've been studying careers in such detail for so many years, can you give me the secret to success?' Yup. Topgrading. Selecting A players and removing C players. Because talent wins."
Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Before you make your next hire, read this book., July 28 2000
By 
Jeffrey S. Davidson (Dallas, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
This book is a presentation of how to perform a truly in-depth interview for management candidates. The interviewing process will allow you and your company to select 'A' players for key positions. You will be able to use the materials shown here as an outstanding tool, giving you insight into the candidates experience, performance history, and growth allowing you to determine what they are capable of today and in the future. This will, in short, let you go from hoping your next hire works out to being confident your next hire will be a star.
Of course there is no tool that does not require effort and this is no exception. You will need to spend the time to develop the description and needs of the position. Moreover, you will have to personally dedicate the time to get to know the candidate. It won't take you months or weeks, but it will require you to spend many hours; interviewing, reviewing, analyzing.
Is it really worth your time to go into such depth when hiring? Not just hours, but days? The real question is whether you can afford not to.
*Note: I am about to start preaching* I am a big believer that the biggest keys to success in business centers around the strategy, the systems, and the staffing. A good system (processes) can lead average people to better than average results, but getting the system to accomplish that much--where it is easier to do a task right than it is to do it wrong--is very difficult. A truly good staff though can accomplish goals despite a poor or average system though. A good senior staff can make a strategy better and make the system into what it should be in the first place. Without the right staff, those individuals who can lead and learn and grow and mold, the company will not reach its potential. And I mean bottom-line potential, sales potential, growth of staff and customers and suppliers and etc, etc, etc. A good senior staff can bring the rest of the company up to its level. Anything less than a good senior staff is a travesty, a travesty the CEO, board, or shareholders should get rid of. I mean can them today. *Sermon over*
This first half of the book may be the strongest part of the book for just this reason. Dr. Smart and I agree that people make a difference and he is convincing when stating you /must/ spend the time to choose the right candidate or you risk failure. Not just poor performance, but failure in your department or company.
Using his experience with Fortune 500 companies, and especially with GE and Jack Welch, the author presents a picture of how using good methods to select and hire outstanding personnel in your budget range (whether internal or external) will lead to greater success. Do you really want to take the easy way out during the interview if it will lead to failure tomorrow?
As almost a bonus (or filler chapter), Dr. Smart also suggests how to use the interviewing techniques to coach employees into becoming 'A' players. While Management by Objective is no longer a fashionable phrase, it is a valuable tool in the managment arsenal. This book gives you the framework to use MBO as you coach your employees.
In the first week after I read the book I recommended it to three small business owners who need to hire good people. I recommend you read 'Topgrading' the next time you are looking for a manager...
...or VP or president or CEO.
*feedback welcome at: jeffrey@davidson.net
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Improvement on Best Practices for Recruiting Top Talent, April 6 2000
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
Computers and equipment are wonderful tools, but people make the difference. Many companies are too little focused on hiring the best. Research consistently shows that the best 25 percent in any population produce over 80 percent of the economic results. Yet the cost to hire and keep them is much less than the benefit. TOPGRADING is built around that insight. TOPGRADING makes it clear just how valuable it is to hire and work with the best. The mistakes you will avoid make the investment very valuable. Early in our company's history, we did a statistical analysis of how many candidates we had to seriously consider before we could assume that we had seen an outstanding one. It was over 140. Now, most people would stop long before then and will usually hire someone who is not a top performer. TOPGRADING helps with this problem by providing you with a process that reduces that number a lot, but still ensures that you will be able to hire the best. I was very impressed with this book. I think it is one of the few books that goes beyond the current best practice to establish a new and higher standard in any field. It is certainly the only one I have seen that sets a higher standard in hiring. You would be very foolish if you did not read and apply the messages of this book. Some few geniuses may be able to hire the best using intuition, but for the rest of us there's TOPGRADING. When the history of many companies is written in the future, a key turning point will be the day that TOPGRADING was first applied. I wish that I had had this book available 22 years ago when I established my consulting firm! I have recently discussed this book with a number of business executives, and they each found the book to be as valuable as I did. Banish stalled thinking about hiring, and use this process. If you are not years ahead of the competition, the lack of this process could be a major contributing cause. Think about it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Important Work for those who are growing a business!, April 3 2000
By 
Alan James (Ft. Collins, Colorado) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
This book is an important work for me. As an entrepeneur, the book contained the information that I needed. A major part of the achievement puzzle.
For those who read this review, the three pieces of knowledge I deemed most valueable are as follows:
1. Hire the top 10% of the people out there who are willilng to work for the wage offered. This book helps pinpoint characteristics of people most suitable thru a long interview section in the back of the book. I think its pretty darn accurate.
2. A players. B players. C & D players. Some B players cannot be converted to A. Some B are only B. C players cannot be converted to a B player. D players are D players pernamently. Certain personal characteristics of thinking indicate if you are A, B,C or D. Great Stuff! After reading this book I fell out of love with all the people around me, and proceeded to top grade my company. I strongly disagree with who ever the perplexed indivdual was who wrote in the customer review that this book - not to waste your money. Well, this book helped me waste my money all the way to the bank!
3. In general you should employ fewer people, and pay them more, to do more.
Read the interview guide. I never considered spending 5 hours with a person to really dig deep and elicit characteristics with leading questions. I always thought an hour interview would be a long one. The book can be a yawner at parts but it gets going after the first few chapters. Great Book! The book has value.
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5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT PROCESS AND REASONS TO HIRE THE BEST, July 5 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
Computers and equipment are wonderful tools, but people make the difference. TOPGRADING makes it clear just how valuable it is to hire and work with the best. The mistakes you will avoid make the investment very valuable. Early in our company's history, we did a statistical analysis of how many candidates we had to seriously consider before we could assume that we had seen an outstanding one. It was over 140. TOPGRADING provides you with a process that reduces that number a lot, but still ensures that you will be able to hire the best. I was very impressed with this book. I think it is one of the few books that goes beyond the current best practice to establish a new and higher standard. You would be very foolish if you did not read and apply the messages of this book. When the history of many companies is written in the future, a key turning point will be the day that TOPGRADING was first applied. I wish that I had had this book available 22 years ago when I established my consulting firm! I have recently discussed this book with a number of business executives, and they each found the book to be as valuable as I did. THIS BOOK WILL INCREASE THE CHANCES THAT YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES WILL BE BIGGER WINNERS THAN EVER BEFORE! Banish stalled thinking about hiring, and use this process.
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