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5.0 out of 5 stars Manage an Organization as Nature Would ...
... with the neither malice nor pity. That's the gist of this excellent book, and it's not offensive to the concept of human dignity. To the contrary, Dr. Smart notes that "A players" can (and should) exist at every level. Every CEO, every acountant, every sales rep, and every Wal-Mart greeter should be best in class -- and they should be required to stay...
Published on June 16 2004 by H.C. Joiner

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just another magic bullet solution to sell books and consulting serives
We've been using Topgrading for about 18 months now. While there are some useful ideas in the book, it's claims of its ability to provide you with a fool-proof way to identify "A players" is greatly inflated. The methodology has made a nightmare out of our hiring process. And, because managerial effectiveness is measured by how well they "Topgrade," managers are...
Published on March 5 2007 by A Customer


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just another magic bullet solution to sell books and consulting serives, March 5 2007
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
We've been using Topgrading for about 18 months now. While there are some useful ideas in the book, it's claims of its ability to provide you with a fool-proof way to identify "A players" is greatly inflated. The methodology has made a nightmare out of our hiring process. And, because managerial effectiveness is measured by how well they "Topgrade," managers are reluctant to admit that a new hire was a mistake. Instead they tend to keep an employee that they would otherwise terminate before the end of the evaluation period. Topgrading is based on what appears to be a one size fits all premise. I believe that it is quite useful for hiring sales staff and for other positions requiring extraverted personalities, but is inadequate for techological postions. While the CIDS interview does provide you with a wealth of information, one must ask oneself if there is any pertinence in what a 40 year old, highly experienced and accomplished professional did in high school or college. Indeed, even early work experience has little relevancy for such a candidate. Yet Topgrading insists that it does. We have put several candidates through the long and arduous interviews, only to find that in the end, our compensation offer is not acceptable. So hours and a lot of expensive managerial efforts were wasted. We have also been told by candidates who were rated A players that they had no interest in working for a company that is so "over-the-top" on its hiring practices. I can understand this, since I would be very wary of any company that Topgrades were I subjected to it as a candidate. I would fear that the company is strident and inflexible in all its practices to the point of being toxic. I do not see that Topgrading has really allowed us to select the best employees. While it certainly has help some managers hone their interviewing skills, it has not provided us with a sure-fire method for selection only the best people. Our best, brightest and most tenured empolyees were hired before we started Topgrading and we have not seen the promised decline in employee turn-over. What is most troubling about Topgrading is the near religious zeal that its proponents have. To them, either you embrace Topgrading with the same level of unquestioning commitment they possess, or you aren't an A player and can be targeted for elimination. Finally a misapplication of the methodology raises serious potential legal issues. Topgrading may provide a manager with some better tools for the selection of good employees, but it is not the magic bullet it is touted to be. Utlimately, a manager should incorporate processes and methods that are tailored to his operation and are proven to be successful. More often than not, these don't come from some some "expert" publishing how-to books.
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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 Manage an Organization as Nature Would ..., June 16 2004
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
... with the neither malice nor pity. That's the gist of this excellent book, and it's not offensive to the concept of human dignity. To the contrary, Dr. Smart notes that "A players" can (and should) exist at every level. Every CEO, every acountant, every sales rep, and every Wal-Mart greeter should be best in class -- and they should be required to stay competitive in their skills. That's not ruthless. That's natural. But this book goes one step farther, making the compelling case that -- left to their own devices -- the "C players" in any organization will destroy value over time, whether they intend to or not. Accordingly, Topgrading is essential.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Very interested, until..., March 13 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
After reading the reviews of this book, I wanted it...but there's one hesitation.
One company the marketers of the book hold up as an example of why the author's work is effective is GE. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many I've spoken with in my world, GE's products are not superior...so this makes me wonder
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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)    (REAL NAME)   
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 The #1 source for world-class hiring and coaching processes, Jan. 16 2003
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
As an HR consultant and executive coach, Topgrading is my bible. It's taught me skills that have really worked to help clients hire nothing but A players and coach their B players to become As. I agree with the review in Recruiting Magazine Online that says, for those that hire people, this is the "most important book ever written." Needless to say, I give the book 5 stars!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The #1 source for world-class hiring and coaching processes, Jan. 15 2003
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
As an HR consultant and executive coach, Topgrading is my bible. It's taught me skills that have really worked to help clients hire nothing but A players and to coach their Bs to become As. I agree with the review in Recruiting Magazine Online that says for those who hire people, this is the "most important book ever written." Needless to say - I give the book 5 stars!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Ruthless and scary, July 19 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
Great for tips and forms that help you interview more effectively, if you can find candidates who don't mind spending a few hours in a single interview. I found the author's tone harsh and condescending. If you want permission to be a ruthless manager, you'll love this book. If you are a "kinder gentler" boss that cheers on employees and encourages greatness rather than a staunch disciplinarian you may find this book less than useful overall.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting approach, May 23 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Topgrading (Hardcover)
Smart comes off like a pretty hard nosed SOB in the first half of this book. He doesn't seem to talk much about how to correct problems other than firing people. The second half has a great couple of chapters on coaching for excellence which were inspiring to me. I'd like a full book just on this topic from Smart, his matter-of-fact approach is refreshing.
Buy this book if you are an up and coming manager in search of ways to really make yourself an even stronger contributor (by having only the best work for you).
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