Cultivating the Talent

Written By:        Joel Friedman

In my 15+ years of experience managing large organizations and teams, I believe that an employee can be grouped into 1 of 5 categories/status:

  1. Superstars
  2. Contributors
  3. The Pack
  4. Undeveloped Potential
  5. Disenfranchised or Under qualified

Your goal as a leader should be to move as many members of your team up to the first 2 levels (Contributors and Superstars) and cut your losses in a timely manner when you identify employees that cannot attain at least Pack status.

Let’s define each level and discuss the strategies for moving your team through these levels.  I will start in reverse order.

Disenfranchised or Under Qualified

Let’s face it, as a leader no matter how hard we try, we may not be able to make everyone happy and sometimes we make mistakes when it comes to choosing team members.  You need to recognize when you have a disenfranchised or under qualified employee and take action quickly.   If you demonstrate decisiveness and take the appropriate action you will make your team stronger.

Quite frankly, you are doing NOBODY any favors by allowing the disengaged employee to remain on the team.  It is not fair to the other employees who have to listen to the whining and complaining of the disenfranchised employee.  And it cannot be good for the unhappy employee to remain in an environment where he/she obviously does not want to be.  The only correct action to take once you determine that you have a disenfranchised employee is REMOVAL!!!

When it comes to the Under Qualified employee, it is a more unfortunate scenario than the disenfranchised employee but none the less must be treated in a similar manner.  Either get the employee qualified quickly or remove him/her from the team.  Under Qualified employees that remain on the team create Disenfranchised Employees that have to take up the slack.  You cannot afford to have an Under Qualified employee in your organization.

Undeveloped Potential

At times I have managed an employee that was more than qualified for his/her position, but lacked the confidence and experience of performing their job on his/her own.  This employee is more comfortable having you review and approve all of his/her work.  This is a very critical stage for you to get this employee through.  You need to nurture this employee, but at the same time you probably do not have the luxury of being able to spend a great deal of time overseeing his/her work, nor should you have to.  You know that the employee is capable of performing the job on their own- that is why you hired him/her.  This employee has untapped potential.  He/she is more than capable of performing at a higher level, they just need a little push, some opportunity, and some additional feedback to get them started.

One of the best methods of getting this type of employee through this level is to provide him/her with as many opportunities to succeed, and let him/her know when success is attained.  Build his/her confidence and when he/she falls, pick him/her up and let them try again.  Keep with this approach until you determine that the employee will rise to the next levels.  If at any point, you make the determination that the employees is going to remain at this level too long, you need to remove them from the team.

The Pack

This is the level where the majority of employees in any organization operate.  Employees at this level are more than capable of performing their jobs and are doing so at a satisfactory level.  The only problem is that “satisfactory” performance is all that you get from employees at this level- nothing more.  I refer to this employee as a “Pack” employee, because most of an organization’s employees fall into this category.  Your challenge as a Leader is to get your employees to separate from the pack and move into the next 2 levels.

This is without a doubt a much more difficult level to deal with.  Pack employees are engaged, qualified, and performing at satisfactory levels.  You want to retain them and you are receiving value from them.  You just want to maximize the value that they bring to the organization.

Pack employees approach their jobs with a “pack” mentality; meaning that they follow and perform at the same pace as others in the pack.  One of the best approaches that you can use in moving Pack employees to the next level is through public recognition and reward.  Encourage your employees to separate themselves from the pack through creating incentives that are attractive enough to entice the employee to take the risk and separate themselves from average performance.

Demonstrate to the Pack Employees that while you appreciate their satisfactory performance, the rewards for performing above satisfactory levels will be well worth the effort.


We have now reached the level in which true value is achieved.  A Contributor is an employee that has separated themselves from the Pack by performing at above satisfactory levels.  Employees at this level need to be shown appreciation and rewarded.  Too many times leaders take employees at this level for granted.  Don’t fall into the trap of believing that an employee at this level does not need recognition to maintain their performance level.  They actually need continual reinforcement.  They need to know that there is reward for maintaining this level of performance.

Further, your Pack employees will be encouraged to attain this level through the continual recognition and reward of the Contributors in your organization.  So not only does the continual recognition of the Contributor encourage him/her to remain at this level, it also encourages the members of the Pack to attain this level as well.


This is the highest level of performance on my hierarchy.  Employees that have progressed to this level are not only performing at above satisfactory levels, they are actually successfully encouraging and leading the other employees in the organization to perform at a higher level as well.  So unlike the Contributor that is mainly concerned with his/her personal performance, the Superstar is concerned with the team’s performance.  These are the employees that you see helping others, leading brainstorming sessions, and building relationships within the organization.  Employees at the Superstar level need to be seriously considered for leadership positions as they become available in the organization.  Demonstrating to your team that employees in this category have a very realistic chance at promotions and additional opportunities not only maintains the Superstar’s performance, it encourages the Contributors to move up to this level.  As some Contributors see the additional opportunity afforded to the Superstars, they may see value in taking the risk and placing themselves in leadership roles and focusing on team performance as well as their own.

Your success as a leader depends on how quickly you can move your team through these levels and maximize your Contributors and Superstars!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>