How To Identify Top Performers To Grow Your High-Performance Teams

HR manager interviews a job candidate for her high-performance team

When leading teams, it is critical to our success that everyone has a common understanding of what success looks like. Every business I know struggles with hiring. Where are the top performers? How do I identify them? How do I attract them? How excited are they to join my organization and add value quickly?

Never waver off this rule: Decide NOT to settle.

We all know the stats on wasted money, resources, time, and energy when we make a bad hiring decision. We must be willing to stay in the hunt until we find the right candidate. You probably need to always be looking for great additions to the team. After all—you are growing the business, right?

Hiring when you are struggling or have an immediate need weakens your resolve to wait for the right candidate. So, why do we continue to settle for a "good enough" candidate? We continue to believe we can enhance someone with basic skills. And we settle for what we can "afford" from a compensation standpoint.

Know what success looks like. If the right candidate walked in your door tomorrow, would you recognize them?

It is critical to NOT start looking to add to your team if you are unable to describe, in pretty good detail, what the right candidate looks like (skills, experience, demeanor), and articulate why that makes them the right candidate. Example: if you need someone with deep technical experience, it is risky to hire a junior person just because they are affordable.

Once they are through HR and we begin to interview, we need a framework on how to measure our candidates' ability to be a top performer. I have always relied upon what I call the 4 A's.

The 4 A's - Accomplishment, Activity, Attitude, and Assimilation

Accomplishment - An Indicator of Future Success

Job candidate talks about his accomplishments during an interview


People who have a history of accomplishments are more likely to be successful going forward. They have demonstrated that they know what it takes to be successful, to drive results, and have the willingness to do the hard work that success requires. No 9-to-5ers in this crowd. They dive in, figure things out, and make it happen.

Tactical: When interviewing, can they articulate how they were instrumental in the success of projects, efforts, and programs? Words like led, directed, influenced are what we want to hear and see here. We want proud but not boastful.

Activity - Are You Doing Things Today That’ll Help You Be Successful In This New Role?

Professional woman looking to get hired on a high-performance team


Have they been doing activities that have likely prepared them to be successful in your company? If you were in landscaping and with no training decided to become a heart surgeon, while they both involve cutting, they are not the same. Have they been in the back office and now you ask them to be customer-facing? Have they routinely had to engage with internal constituents and now you are asking them to deal with agitated clients?

Attitude - Do They Bring A "Get Stuff Done" Attitude (AKA Passion)?

Professional man displays the right attitude to be hired for the job


Success takes effort, dedication, and a willingness to work a bit harder than just showing up and collecting a paycheck. If your team is not passionate, they are not going to do those things—that 10% in the margin that catapults folks to stardom in your organization.

What book/blog/podcast are you enjoying now? Look for anything that demonstrates how passionate they are for the job, the company, the industry, something. Without passion, people will be just going through the motions. We need engagement from our teams effort to make sure clients are excited to spend money with us.

Assimilate -  Alignment With Your Culture

Manager thinking of hiring job candidate for her high-performance team


This one gets missed too often. Does the potential candidate have the mindset to be successful in your organization's culture? How do you effectively assess that dimension?

I have always involved team members who would be peers to participate in the interview process. They will know if they can work with this new candidate pretty quickly. You need everyone invested in the success of your new hires. Involving potential peers allows existing employees to weigh in on new hires so:

A) They have a vested interest in helping the new person be successful since they "voted" for the new hire.

B) It ensures that the new hire is not too likely to be the thing that breaks down your current team.

C) It shows the team you value their thoughts and contributions by involving them in this critical business process.

With a little bit of discipline, a willingness to wait for a great fit, and clear picture of who you are looking for, you can have a full team of top performers. That is what it takes to be successful in growing your team with top performers. So, when your stars show up, reach for them.

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