XPG Insights

Staffing industry recruiting news, advice and thought leadership.

XPG Insights

Staffing industry recruiting news, advice and thought leadership.

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Depth Charts

Every football team has a depth chart, and every player knows exactly where he sits on that chart. The depth chart helps a coach evaluate a player’s strengths, weaknesses, and liabilities. If there is a hole in any position, the coach must proactively plan to shore it up should an injury or other problem occur. Depth charts also help coaches prepare for recruiting, looking for the best talent to bolster the team’s strength at a specific position or plan to replace a player who is graduating, retiring, or ready to be traded.  

Back in the 1990s, when I played football, the master depth chart was a giant, physical board.  It was located in the meeting room where the coaches for the University of Wisconsin football team met for staff meetings. One whole wall of the room was covered by a big red curtain. Behind the curtain was a huge whiteboard that outlined all the positions on the team.  Under each position was a red magnetic tile with white lettering with the name and number of each team member.  This was the master depth chart. The depth chart was the final word on how we were performing, updated every day based on the results of the coaches’ meetings.   

Every player knew the master depth chart was there behind the curtain.  It dominated our thoughts because we all wanted to be in that number one position on the chart. I don’t remember the curtain being pulled back and actually seeing it at any time during my playing career.  But somehow, every single one of my teammates with whom I have discussed the infamous master depth chart knows that our name tiles were red with white letters.   

Depth charts, in whatever form, should exist for all organizations, including businesses. In a tightening economy, managers have to understand their team’s strengths and weaknesses and know which staff members have the most potential. If your company is facing layoffs, you’ll need to have a system for determining which employees are essential to the success of your business. You’ll want to identify those who could be stars with a little more development or support; you’ll also want to know how deep your bench is and who is next up in the case of a resignation or retirement.  

You may have a depth chart, whether formal or informal, that you haven’t yet shared with your staff. Don’t keep your depth chart hidden behind a curtain. Finding a way to disclose information on where your team members stand may help spur them to better performance or request more training or mentoring.  That can be the start of building a deeper team. 

Excerpt from Relentless Book 

We write in more detail about depth charts in our new book Relentless: Leading through Performance, Relationships, and the Lessons of Sports: 

I’ve told every team I’ve managed that everyone on the team should always know three things and be able to articulate them at a moment’s notice: 

  • Your job description (the what) and what’s expected of you (the how) 
  • How you’re performing in real-time 
  • Two to three things you should be working on improving 


As a manager and coach, you should be able to articulate these things about your team as well and should have a team depth chart that lists your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, and performance or knowledge gaps. Your depth chart can help you better manage your talent now and help you manage what might happen over time. A good manager knows how to balance their team with a variety of skills, knowledge, and experience so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Creating a depth chart can help you track your progress in building a balanced team. 


A good depth chart provides you with: 

  • A way to let people know where they stand, why they are being considered for promotion (or not), and what they need to acquire in knowledge or skills to be ready for the next opportunity 
  • A resource to determine who you can “call up from the bench” with confidence—who’s ready for a challenge 
  • A plan to replace people who leave on short notice 
  • A guide to succession planning—you can invest in high-potential team members and make sure they know who they are 


Your depth chart measures: 

  • Skills/performance  
  • Errors/gaps in performance 
  • Experience/tenure 
  • Leadership on/off the field (so to speak)  
  • The best person for the position right now—and what someone has to do to move up to the A-team 


But performance—and depth—aren’t always about doing things right; it’s also about knowing the right things to do. A good coach should understand and know the value of the full person. In business, core competencies we should be measuring include not only know-how but also know-what and know-who. A team member with a deep and loyal network, for example, can be a great asset, even if current performance measures put him or her in the middle of the pack. 

About the Author:

Rich Thompson, CEO of XPG Recruit, is an expert on staffing, human resources, training and leadership development.  He is also a former All-Big Ten football player for the University of Wisconsin.  XPG Recruit provides recruiting for staffing companies.  The XPG Recruit Athlete division places former athletes into business careers and works closely with universities through its sister company, Podium X.