SBI recently spoke with Alan Foster. Alan is the co-author of “Power Score: Your Formula for Leadership Success” and is a principal at GH Smart. He serves private equity investors, Fortune 500 clients and non-profit organizations in the areas of leadership selection, employee development and organizational transformation.


The topic of conversation was talent development. At SBI we often say success is 50% who you hire, and 50% the performance conditions in which you place those individuals. In Alan’s book, he focuses primarily on the people part, and that was the subject of our conversation.


“We get pulled in by investors, CEOs, and key commercial officers to help think through, how do I get the best people on my team? How do I get a bunch of ‘A’ players who can run at full power?” explained Alan. He has over 15,000 assessments from a variety of clients over the last 20 years. They studied this information, and found that successful leaders do these three things:  


  1. Focus on the right priorities.
  2. Get the right people in the right roles.
  3. Make the relationships work.


#1 – Focus on the Right Priorities

Quite simply, this begins with a discussion and the asking of basic questions. What are the right priorities? How are we going to define what an ‘A’ player looks like? “We find that most people skip over this step,” said Alan. “We truly see this as the foundation of defining successful performance.” Then once organizations have defined what those priorities are, they need to the go out and hire against them.


#2 – Getting the Right People in the Right Role

Alan provided a three step process for getting the “who” piece right – diagnosed, developed and deployed.


He began with diagnose. It begins with determining if you have the right people in the right roles today. There’s a tip that Alan often gives his clients. Every quarter sit down and say “if I had to do my job with 50% of my team, who would I have on my team?” Next, assume you have 75% – who then would make your team? And finally allow 85% of people on your team – who makes it then? This allows Alan’s clients to identify the ‘A’ players. These are the people that leaders reach out to each and every time.


Next he spoke to training and development. This is more than just sales training, he explained. Instead, think about how you should develop all parts of your team. For example, how do you give the right people stretch opportunities? “Both formally in some kind of talent review process, or more informally, how do you make sure you are giving the folks on your team real opportunities to rise and do things that they may not always enjoy?” asks Alan. This allows for employee development as they are forced outside their comfort zone.


Third, he discussed how to deploy the right people against the right roles. “There is both art and science to this,” explained Alan. He has found in his work that the best leaders are trying to figure out how do they, two thirds of the time, help people play to their strengths? Then how do they make sure one third of what they do is stretching and developing them, to help them grow? “We see this systematic approach being used by the best companies consistently,” said Alan.


# 3 – Pairing the Right People against the Right Priorities

There are a couple of things Alan sees the best companies doing here as well. First, they make sure to set incredibly clear expectations. They are able to set a short number of clear priorities for the teams. Next, they give real time feedback. This feedback cannot be generic and non-specific though. Your team must understand what the feedback means, and also be able to remember it when in the thick of action.


Ultimately, it’s all about team prioritization. Alan recommends having somewhere between 3 to 5 priorities in which to pair you people against. And there needs to be a frequent cadence of feedback in order to be able to successfully work towards the organizations goals and objectives.


At the end of the day, sales and marketing teams cannot make their number if they don’t have the right talent. You need to constantly develop your talent to keep pace with the market, and ahead of your competition. Alan’s three steps will help you get it right.  



John Staples

Leads teams of highly qualified experts, all relentless in their pursuit of helping you make your number.

John is the global leader of SBI’s account management business unit. As such, he and his team help clients across 19 verticals drive top line growth and operational efficiency in sales and marketing.


John’s marketing, sales and product expertise span a multichannel strategic approach. He has an unyielding focus on strategic and key account development, which enables strategic alignment between all functional team members in order to reduce acquisition cost and increase lifetime value.


His broad experience in sales, marketing, product and engineering allows him to bring a unique problem solving approach to his team and clients. As he has discovered through decades of experience, clients are often distracted by the symptoms of a larger problem and overlook the root cause of it.


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