Having the Courage to Topgrade
“It doesn't matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.”
Beyond such things as leadership skills, ethics, and a bias for action, courage is a required trait of any effective CEO. One way courage manifests itself for leaders is in the ability to make tough decisions even when they may be unpopular or difficult. It’s about changing the status quo and making changes when they’re necessary – and the right thing to do.
This brings me to an important topic for leaders: topgrading. As a method for helping ensure that your organization is filled with only the cream of the crop, topgrading has become de rigueur ever since Bradford Smart authored his book on the subject and, in doing so, created a new way of thinking about hiring the best executives and – perhaps most importantly – replacing others when necessary.
As Smart says, “All organizations, all businesses live or die mostly on their talent, and any manager who fails to topgrade is nuts, or a C player." He continues, "Topgrading is for A players and all those aspiring to be A players.”
The recession we have lived under in recent years has made a profound impact on organizations. Most have not changed personnel, assuming that “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” even in critical roles.
Another contributing factor is a kind of hunker-down mentality. What that means is that it often seems easier, and perhaps even safer, to keep those employees who have been loyal, or who have been “nice” or who have felt like family to the organization than to do the tough analysis that indicates a change is needed.
Yet the fact is that keeping an employee – whether it’s an executive who has become a friend, or a family member who isn’t qualified to fill the position or who is no longer a fit – distracts you from creating the results you as the CEO want for the company.
To achieve greatness, companies depend on the right people in the right positions, and the more dynamic people you have on your teams, the more it helps create a more dynamic organization.
Yes, it takes courage to make tough changes. When they are necessary, however, as an effective and forward-thinking leader you will be glad when you do.