Developing People Through Talent Assessment

In Good to Great, Jim Collins taught us that we need to get the right people in the right seats. In small business, the seats are fairly standard: President, General Manager, Sales Manager, Operations Manager, Finance Manger…There are industry-specific variations on this theme but those five titles represent the foundational core to most businesses with 10 – 100 people.

How to staff those positions? That’s the magic. At Bellrock, we help established businesses implement the foundational best practices and systems they need to reach their loftiest goals. These companies are going concerns and already have a full complement of staff. Companies grow, technology advances, and people develop. It’s a hard realization when a long-time employee has developed in a different direction than the organization requires. Equally hard is what to do with the “star performer” that no one likes.

As a starting point, plot your key people on the above matrix. This is an initial assessment – not a judgement. Consider this the first step in creating a professional development program for each person by taking stock of your perceptions of their performance. The labels should not be considered permanent and you must keep in mind it as much an assessment of your people development skills as it is of their performance.

Ideal Team Players

Ideally, your company is staffed with only Ideal Team Players (top right corner). Patrick Lencioni defines these people as being “humble, hungry, and (people) smart”. More generally, they are those who are aligned with the values of the organization and focused on the results they produce. The Ideal Team Players are the easiest to ignore because they’re just so good. Do this at your peril. It’s critical to let them know specifically how you view their performance and to recognize and appreciate them. It’s also critical to keep raising the bar and challenging them to develop further. Without challenges, your Ideal Team Players may turn into B-Players.


The B-Players (top left corner) match the organization’s values very well. They’re good team players, except they’re not overly driven to be on a winning team. If you’re looking to develop a top performing organization there are a few things you can do to get these players to focus on the results. Clarifying their position’s duties and results expectations can be the key to unlocking a B-Player’s potential. Or maybe they just need additional training and guidance. It’s also possible that they’re an excellent fit for the organization but not for the role they’re in. In that case, analyze how their strengths might be better deployed in the organization. The other possibility is that they’re in the right seat and know what they need to do but that they’re just not particularly driven to do it. In this case, setting high minimum standards may nudge them toward stronger performance.


C-Players (bottom right corner) deliver results, but often at a cost. They can be disruptive, fight for resources to meet their needs at the expense of the organization, or even throw others under the bus if it suits their purpose. C-Players are often found in highly technical roles or sales roles where work can be somewhat independent. To develop their performance into an Ideal Team Player, serious coaching conversations are in order that both acknowledge their achievements but also highlight how they can deliver so much more. Self-awareness of their overall impact and social insensitivity is sometimes in short supply in these cases. If they can be assisted to improve these areas their performance will also improve.


D-Players don’t deliver results nor align with the organization’s values. If you’ve assessed someone as a D-Player, it’s particularly important here to take a hard look in the mirror and ensure you’ve done all you can to help them succeed. If you have, it might be time to release them to develop their full potential somewhere else.

Don’t Judge, Just Assess and Act

In all cases, don’t judge, just assess, because you first have to consider: Have I, as a leader, set them up for success? Do they know what is expected of them? Are they aware of the results we’re looking for? Or maybe they’re fantastic but in the wrong seat or need some training. You as a leader must first look in the mirror before judging your team.  

Ideal, B, C, or D – in every case the simplest vehicle for coaching and development is the regularly scheduled, rarely missed, ideally face-to-face, time bound one-on-one meeting.

Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The culture of any organization is composed largely of its people. On one end of the culture spectrum is the country club – everyone likes each other, fits in, and has fun. They work hard enough and often describe themselves as “a family.” On the other end of the spectrum is a cut-throat 100% results-oriented environment. Burnout is common and people are often working hard to be able to afford to not have to work at all. The competition is fierce. Use this assessment tool to identify where each person on your team is to nudge your company toward the middle of this culture spectrum and to top performance in your industry.

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Written By:
Tara Landes

Tara Landes is the Founder and President of Bellrock. She has spent over 20 years consulting and training in small to medium-sized enterprises. A sought-after speaker on a wide range of business topics, Tara has delivered workshops and seminars at conferences and industry associations across Canada. Tara obtained a BA (Honours) in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and earned an MBA from UWO's Richard Ivey School of Business.

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