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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  November 08, 2011

New Research on Top Performers

Just returned from the Women’s Leadership Board meeting at Harvard last week.  Learned a lot from fabulous research on a variety of topics.  One of my favorite presentations was on how top performers fare in new environments.  Harvard Business School associate professor, Boris Groysberg, burst a lot of bubbles with this primary research into what really happens when companies hire super stars to save them.  Among his findings:

  • In the 21st century, many more companies will hire from outsiders rather than develop from within.  Conventional wisdom from the C-suite:  our current team can’t deal with upcoming changes or we wouldn’t be in this situation now.  Their expectation:  super stars will hit the ground running and create instant results.
  • The reality:  results from a vast majority of top performers tank within the first year.  While performance gradually improves, these stars only rise to average levels after five years.
  • Top performers who are hired to rescue struggling companies experience the biggest dip in performance.
  • Stars who move to another company with their colleagues fare better; those who move alone or to launch a new venture do not experience the same success.

The upshot:  the biggest factor impacting performance was not the selection of outside super stars, but how well they integrated into the company’s culture.  This goes far beyond on-boarding; I see a lot of opportunity here for experts beyond the typical OD types.  Check out Boris’ book, Chasing Stars:  The Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance and see for yourself.


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.