Increase Your Income with 5 Topgrading Competencies

These 5 Abilities are Important and Comparatively Easy to Develop

While there are many ways to earn extra money on the side, the primary way to earn more is to get paid more for your work. Improving your skills is a key ingredient to getting paid more. But there are many ways to improve. The question is: which improvements are both easiest to make and likely to have the greatest impact on your ability, value to your employer, and income?

Man watering a plant that he is standing on

In the book Topgrading, author Bradford Smart lays out no fewer than 50 job competencies. These are 50 areas in which every employee has more or less ability. Topgrading is a book about hiring. The competencies are discussed to help an employer make a top hire.

But in reading about the competencies, I realized it could be reverse-engineered to help someone become more valuable to a current or perspective employer.

Specifically, 5 of the 50 competencies are considered by experienced Topgraders to be both highly important and easy to change. Focusing on growing in those 5 competencies presents a leveraged opportunity. They offer 5 ways to make yourself more valuable to an employer with comparative ease.

In this post I will provide a snapshot of the 50 Topgrading competencies. Then I’ll discuss how to increase your ability—and hopefully your income—through improving in the key 5.

The 50 Topgrading Competencies

Following is an overview of the 50 Topgrading competencies. I’ve categorized them in terms of importance and relative ease of ability to change.

You can see the five, which I’ve highlighted in green, that are both important and easy to change.

50 Topgrading competencies with the 5 most leveraged highlighted

The 5 Key Topgrading Competencies to Leverage

Because the 5 Topgrading competencies highlighted in green are easy to improve in, they are low-hanging fruit. And because they are important competencies, improving in them is likely to have a disproportionately positive impact on your value to your employer.

Here’s a more detailed description of those 5 Topgrading competencies:

1. Leading Edge

“Constantly benchmarks best practices and expects others to do the same.”

You can grow in this area by researching best practices in your field and applying them to your work. For instance, if you are a teacher of adults, a best practice in adult learning may be to spend less time lecturing and more time drawing from the experience of your students. You could discover such principles by observing or asking experts in the field, reading books about adult learning, etc.

2. Team Player

“Reaches out to peers. Overcomes we-they. Approachable. Leads peers to do what is best for company.”

There are many ways to work on growing as a team player. For instance, you can make a concerted effort to acknowledge and thank your coworkers for their contributions. Or you can ask your teammates what they are struggling with and how you can help.

3. Selecting A PlayersTopgrading book cover

“Topgrades through effective recruiting and selecting at least 90% A Players.”

This competency only applies to those whose role involves hiring others. But for them it is a big one, as little will do as much for your and your team’s effectiveness as hiring top candidates who fit the role well. The easiest way to grow in this competency is to read and apply the principles of Topgrading. You will learn how to write good job descriptions, structure interviews well, etc.

4. Training / Development / Coaching

“Actively and successfully trains people. Coaches and develops for promotion into positions where they succeed. People builder.”

You could improve in this competency by helping anyone who works for you to meet their job expectations, achieve their potential, increase their potential, etc. Compared with a competency like “intelligence” which is very difficult to change, coaching is much easier to grow in. You can observe how good supervisors develop you and emulate them. You can attend coaching workshops. Etc.

5. Redeploying B/C Players

“Redeploys chronic B/Cs.”

This competency regards a manager’s ability to reassign an under-performer after candid feedback and sincere training and development efforts have come up short. The goal is to get the employee into a role where he or she can thrive as a top performer.

My Thoughts

I, personally, find this short list very helpful. I’m always looking to develop, but it’s paralyzing to consider 50 areas of possible growth. 5 areas are much more manageable.

Because these five areas are important, they’re worth seeking to understand better and improve in. And because they are easy to grow in, I have confidence that the effort will pay off in my own life and in yours as well if you pursue them.


While one’s level of income is not only a function of one’s ability, there is certainly a strong correlation. Improving one’s ability is a key ingredient to getting paid more for your work. And getting paid more for your work is the primary way to earn more money.

Imagine if developing these 5 competencies led to a 1% increase in your income. Just 1%. If you earn $60,000 per year, a 1% pay increase is $600 per year. Over a career, that could amount to $20,000 more income. If developing the 5 competencies led instead to a 5% increase in your income, the difference over your career could be $100,000.

That’s a lot more money for what matters most.

Question: What improvement to your ability and/or income do you think you’d see by improving in one or more of these 5 competencies? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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