How To Build a High Performing Work Team

Topic(s): selection, talent management
Publication: Harvard Business Review (JAN 2012)
Article: Gilt Groupe's CEO on Building a Team of A Players
Authors: K. Ryan
Reviewed by: Liz Brashier

In a recent article by the CEO of the flash sales company the Gilt Groupe, Ryan (2012) discusses what makes a company truly successful. (Hint: it’s something we focus on the most!) According to Ryan, a business idea is worth next to nothing – without the right people to implement it.

While most companies claim to put people first, Ryan asks a compelling question: “Do most CEOs spend more time on recruiting and managing people than any other activity?” The answer is more often than not a “no,” and for this CEO, that’s a big problem. He also challenges CEOs to consider their relationship with the head of HR in their own companies, and to make sure that this person has a real seat at the executive table. The most important thing a CEO can do is build and maintain a top caliber “A-Team” of employees.


Ryan offers the following suggestions for building a high caliber team:

1) Add by subtracting: if employees are no longer productively contributing, then it’s time to let them go and bring new talent in. There is no where to put a stellar new hire if all the desks are occupied – not being utilized productively.
2) Check those references! According to Ryan, most hiring managers value the resume over the reference check, while checking a reference can often provide the most valuable insight into what this candidate’s work is like.
3) Make sure you understand why people choose to leave. Often, it’s because of a manager. If talented employees are choosing to leave, make sure that their manager understands an evaluation for him or her is up next.


The clear message from this article? Put your people first, especially when in the role of CEO. Obsessing over talent while serving as CEO could provide the greatest returns for the company.


Ryan, K. (2012). Gilt Groupe’s CEO on building a team of A players. Harvard Business Review, 90, 43-46.

Image credit: istockphoto/fizkes