Three Keys to Creating a Team of A Players

If you were to list the members of your team on a spreadsheet and then place a letter grade next to their name (A, B, C, D, or F), how many A players would you have? If you were then to divide that number (your total number of A players) by the total number of your employees, what percentage of your total employee count would be A players?

If you’re like most owners, entrepreneurs and business leaders (regardless of whether your business is for profit or non-profit) chances are that percentage is way south of 80%.

Now, while there are plenty of reasons why this is true, it doesn’t really matter for today’s discussion because neither you nor I need to be a rocket scientist in order to conclude that if we want to create massive leverage in our businesses, we’ve got to have more and more A players on our teams.

So the important question for the day is, “How do I go about creating a team of A players?”

Key #1. Commit to Only Hiring A Players

Now, before you rush past this and dismiss it as too obvious, run back through your past five to ten hires—how many of them were/are A players?

I’ve asked this question of quite a few leaders and the answer is always smaller than they’d like to admit. Why? Well, sometimes it’s a case of, “I just didn’t have any time. I needed someone right away.” Other times it’s, “I didn’t have enough time to really do a thorough background check.” Other times it’ll be, “I guess I wasn’t really clear on what I wanted.” Still other times it’ll be, “I prefer to hire people I know because then, at least, I know what I’m getting.” Etc. Etc. Etc.

However, what is true about all of those comments? Exactly! They’re all excuses. And they all prove that key #1 isn’t really a commitment. If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know I constantly state that what you and I “know” is irrelevant. It’s what we do that matters.

And while most owners, entrepreneurs, and other business leaders LIKE the IDEA of hiring only A players, few actually follow through on it. So are you willing to buck the trend and make a COMMITMENT to only hiring A players?

Key #2. Eliminate All C, D and F Players

Obviously, you can’t do this all in one fell swoop, but if you’re really committed to having an A level team then this is where the rubber hits the road. This is where you find out if you’re really committed to having a great team. Why? Because this is where your idea gets tested.

By definition you can’t create an A level team with C, D, and F players. So, if a leader keeps people on their team who are functioning at a C, D, or F level they are, by definition, saying they’re really not committed to putting forward an A level team.

So, why don’t more leaders let go of their C, D, and F players? Sometimes it’s because they let their personal relationships get in the way. Sometimes it’s because they’re afraid of how it’ll affect other people. Sometimes it’s because they’re afraid of all the extra work it’ll mean for them (meaning the leader). Sometimes it’s because they’re thinking about the families of those underperforming players and how losing their job will affect the other family members etc.

But none of those “reasons” is sufficient from a business perspective. And moreover, they’re not good for the employee either. When underperformers are kept on, they aren’t forced to change or move to a position where they’d be happier and more productive. And until something changes, nothing will change for them or in them—which is ultimately a disservice to the underperforming employee.

So, how about you? Have you been keeping some C, D and/or F players on your payrolls? Why are you doing that? And what’s keeping you from letting them go?

Note 1: I understand extending grace to people (after all, I was in pastoral ministry for 22 years), but keeping underperforming employees on the payroll for years on end isn’t about grace—it’s about something much deeper.

Note 2: While the goal is to only hire A players, sometimes you have to hire a B or sometimes you hire someone you think is an A but they turn out to be a B. So, what should you do with your B players? If they’re a B player and they’re productive—especially if they have the potential to become an A player—keep them. However, if they’re a B player and they’re not growing—put them on a performance plan. If they rise to the occasion, keep them. If they don’t, begin the transition plan out.

Key #3. Clearly Define What an A Player Looks Like

It doesn’t matter what game you’re playing, if the goal isn’t clear, no one is going to hit it. Yet, what do most businesses do when it comes to talent development? Exactly! They never define what the goal is.

So, what does an A player look like for you?

  • What kind of work ethic do they have?
  • What kinds of values do they own?
  • What kinds of skills do they possess?
  • What kinds of attitudes do they possess?
  • What kinds of social skills do they exhibit to others?
  • How well do they play in the sandbox?
  • What kinds of knowledge do they possess?
  • How intelligent are they? Etc.

Do you have a clear idea in your mind? Better yet, do your employees know this is what you expect? And, if you want to go to the next level, do you have any processes in place to create this kind of employee?

While there are plenty of other ideas to help create teams of A players, I find that these three are the foundation. If you’re not committed to only hiring A players or you’re not committed to letting go of your C, D and F players or if you’re not clear on what kind of person makes an A player in your book—then there’s no way on earth you’ll ever create a team of A Players.

However, when you are committed to only hiring A players. When you are committed to letting go of your C, D, and F players. And when you’re absolutely crystal clear on what an A player looks like, you’ve communicated that to all your employees, and you’ve created systems to help support and develop A players—then you’ve got a great shot at developing a team of A players!

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you want to learn more about building an A level team and how to better leverage them, then you’ll want to pick up your own copy of my newest book entitled, “Breaking Through Plateaus: How to Get Your Business Back on a Double-Digit Growth Curve by Creating a Culture That Automatically Produces It!” by clicking on the following link

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