Top talent, or A-Players as we refer to them, are fantastic and easily recognized in an organization. Have you ever said, “Wow! It’s so easy to manage so and so”? Chances are high that you’ve got an A-Player on your team. That said, have you ever stopped to consider what they need and want, what will keep them around, and how to unlock their talent?

We recently hosted a workshop for one of our clients who wanted to revitalize the company’s  stagnating performance. We began by looking at how they managed their team and A-Players and realized more could be done to tap into and amplify each person’s unique strengths and abilities.

With A-Players, when it’s done right, the returns you get are exponentially positive – but, when done wrong, the results can be negative. So how do you do make sure you’re tapping into A-Players correctly?

A-Players generally needs three key things:

  • Direction (goals)
  • Space (autonomy)
  • Resources (time, people, money).

Direction

It’s important to set very clear goals with your A-Players – to define what success looks like. A-Players can often be perfectionists, and if you’re not clear about desired outcomes, they may iterate on a deliverable for months because it wasn’t good enough for them. Now, some of you might ask, ‘well, wouldn’t I want perfect?’ But their definition may not be yours, and their time and talent could have been used on another project to achieve twice the results.

Space

A-Players don’t typically like to be micro-managed so once you’ve given clear direction – including when you need regular updates – get out of the way. Trust that they will ask for help if they need it.

Resources

If you trust that your people will come to you when they need something, it’s important that you listen when they do. Whether it’s time, money or people, you can be sure they’ve already tried to solve the problem before asking for help. Provide an environment in which they feel supported, knowing they can come to you with clear requests.

We Are All Different

While it’s easy to lump A-Players into one category of ‘high performers’, a great leader sets specific guidelines to match their individual needs so that they can focus on the right things and perform at a consistently high level. We recently coached a CEO struggling to get the most of his A-Players as the company prepared to tackle high-stakes opportunities in the next Quarter. We did DISC and Enneagram assessments on his team to help him to identify each person’s needs, and leveraged the tools in Teach People to Meet your Standards (Chapter 13, Your Oxygen Mask First). As he started to up the bar and get more specific, output from each A-Player increased between 20% and 50%.

The Challenge

  • Do you know who your A-Players are?
  • What are you doing to keep them?
  • What brings the best out of each person and what shuts them down?
  • What’s the best way to communicate with them?

PS – If you want to know more or need help managing A-Players, ask us about our Leadership Education Programs, or call us for some one-on-one insight.

Tim Schokking is a Coach and Strategic Planning Advisor at Lawrence & Co. Growth Advisors.