A World-Class Leader’s Experience
"There's no doubt in my mind I packed my team with A Players using Topgrading. Not only has it helped my career, but I'm confident it has made my employers more profitable.”
- Michael A. Schweitzer, SVP, Former Global Head of Sales and Distribution,
HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management
In 2003 the CEO of UBS, Mark Sutton, said, "To head our wealth management group, we're after not just an A Player, but the best in the world - a Super A Player." With Michael Schweitzer, he got it.
UBS used Topgrading Professionals to coach executives and interview candidates for top jobs as part of a corporate Topgrading rollout. Schweitzer learned the Topgrading methods by attending a Topgrading Workshop as part of the rollout. He also read Topgrading books and sat in on interviews with the professionals. “I did all this to hopefully become quite good at hiring,” he said.
Building Effective Teams with Topgrading
At UBS, Schweitzer used the Topgrading method of candidate-arranged references calls to assure transparency, conducted initial half-hour phone or lunch interviews, conducted Tandem Topgrading Interviews of finalist candidates, then made reference calls, of course arranged by those finalist candidates. Through this process, he replaced the mostly C Players who he had inherited with mostly A Players.
“People wonder if it's hard to get candidates to arrange reference calls with bosses” Schweitzer reflects. The practice is a key discipline of Topgrading to be sure reference calls after the interview process will be valuable. “I’ve always found that A Players are happy to arrange the calls at the time of a job offer. After all, they know their bosses will sing their praises.”
From 2012 to 2016, Schweitzer was Group Head of Sales and Distribution at HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management (RBWM) in London. The RBWM business comprised of almost 20,000 employees across 20 countries. Schweitzer estimates that on his global leadership team, he hired at least 90% A Players. Instead of hiring B Players with A potential, he insisted on hiring A Players who could be highly productive right away, leading a complex business serving the needs of families and individuals across the globe.
Advice to Would-Be Topgraders
- Take time to learn the process front to back.
- Explain the process to candidates up front. It helps put them at ease and leads to their sharing much more information than they might have otherwise.
- Don't take shortcuts. Topgrading works because you follow the process - full stop.
- Use a tandem interviewer to capture details.
- Draft a formal summary of the conversation - it will help you and others who will be working with your hires.
- Play back your summary to those you ultimately hire. They will appreciate the depth and attention to detail, and it will help bond them to the organization.
- Require that your team use Topgrading methods with all their hires.
- Inspect what you expect - ask for the written reports after Topgrading Interviews.
- Meet with new hires and incorporate your learning from the Topgrading process – give them feedback and coaching soon after they are hired. It’s a great way to boost the onboarding process because they create their development plan based on your feedback.