Only A-Players need apply


We’ve all heard this before.  “I only want A-Players on my team or in my company.”   We spend a significant amount of time looking for them, attracting them and assuming we are successful, retaining them.  Yet a small percentage of the labor force, actively looking or open to the possibility, are truly A-Players.  The biggest reason is because every other company is looking for them and trying to retain them too. 

So what do you do? 

What about the “B-Players”?  

Why would you consider B-Players?  To begin with they are more prevalent that A-Players.  Further, they require very little effort, are generally steady contributors to your business and are often times more loyal than other employees.  Many B-Players are such because they have decided not to be over achievers.  They want to do a good job and they put forth an honest effort.  They simply do not want to be the marathon hour hard charging employee that we frequently view A-Players as.  They may not have the ambition to be the next CEO or to conquer the business world, but they get the job done in a dependable and quality way. 

A-Players, while obviously strong performers are also relatively high maintenance employees.  When things get tough they sometimes begin to think about moving on or leaving what they consider to be underperforming groups. While this can occasionally get them labeled as disloyal or job hoppers, A-Players are by definition intolerant of anything less than constant over achieving.  This can cause an excessive amount of burden on your leadership due to internal conflicts with team and co-workers faced with the demand of the A-Player.  This is not an absolute so please don’t think I am suggesting all A-Players are leadership problems.  

But this is about turning B-Players into strong contributors within your business as you build a high performing company around them.  Further, it is about investing in them.  The biggest mistake most businesses make when developing their future leadership is to focus only on the A-Players.  Ignoring or discounting the B-Players who bring balance and strength to the efforts of the A-Players who may well drive the company into exceeding its capacity resulting in business failure.  This pairing affords any business a stability it would not ordinarily have it strictly relied upon over achievers for business growth.  

So you have B-Players on your team now.  Determining who you want to develop into stronger contributors, and further increase their loyalty and commitment to the business?  You do this by a simple needs analysis.  Not only the developmental needs of your employees but also the needs of your business.  Evaluating the outcomes of this needs analysis you will discover strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for both.  Matching these will help you decide not only who are the best fit from a development standpoint, but also who would be most open to this development without requiring them to change any career goals or aspirations they may have.  Once you have decided on who, then you have to implement the what.  That will be different in each business but certain things will exist in the efforts expended in all businesses. 

Accept that all employees are different – not every employee wants to be as successful as you, wants to overachieve as much as you.  Some are very content doing a top notch job and not getting promoted or receiving bonuses.  Don’t sell these workers short.

If you ignore them, they may go away – Ignoring your employees, even those who seem to never come to you for assistance is an excellent way to watch your talent disappear elsewhere.  Spending a little time engaging with your B Players is a small but powerful way of ensuring you not only keep them but that you capitalize on what they bring to your business.

Reward them – Everybody wants to be rewarded.  Sometimes that is simply as a pat on the back or similar gesture of thank you.  B Players are not looking for great rewards, promotions or valuable gifts of appreciation.  They simply want to be recognized for what they do. 

Not everyone wants to be management – yet B Players want to be better at what they do and remain solid consistent performers.  Help them achieve this with periodic developmental or skill training.  Give them coaching to help them be better  

Not everyone can be an A Player and that is why they are so rare.  Not every business will be successful at attracting enough of them in sufficient numbers to make a significant difference.  Understanding you have strong B Players who can make significant reliable contributions will help your business become more productive and profitable.  This, in turn, will help you attract the critical A Players you desire while leading a strong sustainable business.