Types of A-Players

Did you know there are four different types of A-Players? It’s an important insight to understand as you manage your team.

To re-cap a previous blog post about the cost of not having A-Players on your team:

  • An A-Player fits your culture well and delivers consistently excellent results. In school terms, they would get a 90% or higher grade on both. They are creative and efficient, and you love working with them.
  • A B-Player fits the culture very well but doesn’t consistently get an A grade on the quality of their work or hitting deadlines. They are productively good.
  • A C-Player doesn’t achieve the expected results and they don’t fit the culture.

There are 4 types of A-Players:

1. Toxic A-Player

This A-Player gets awesome results but doesn’t fit the culture. Often referred to as a high-performing jerk, this person creates stress or drama in the organization because they operate under a different belief or behavior system. While they usually don’t or won’t, they need to be given a chance to step up and fit the culture. Otherwise, you need to help them to find a new home that’s a better fit.

I once worked with a woman on a support team that processed orders. In the busiest month when 20% of annual company business got done, the team stayed late to catch up. This A-Player was so good, she was done by four o’clock and went home. In a company with a core value of teamwork – where everyone chipped in to help one another – that created a lot of tension and frustration. Her manager talked to her, but she wouldn’t budge from her view that it wasn’t her problem that everyone else was too slow. After she flatly refused to support her team – to live the core values – she had to go.

One client had an employee who was the best truck driver in his fleet. This guy could deliver stuff across Canada, in all kinds of tough conditions, and maintained his vehicle well. He was toxic because his aggressive driving brought two or three complaint calls a month, inconsistent with the company brand. He had to go.

2. A1 A-Player

An outstanding, solid, reliable fit. They are happy and masterful in their role and may continue to be for the next 20 years. You want a lot of these people in your business.

They are not necessarily promotable, and they may not want to rise to the next level. Because of that, some may think they are not A-Players but that’s not true.

My father was an A-Player mechanic. He did high quality work, had integrity, got the job done, and took good care of the customers. But he had zero interest in moving up into management and was happy staying in his role.

What to watch for: Make sure their skills stay relevant, for the role, to continue to stay an A-Player, over time.

3. A2 – promotable one level.

This is someone who can move up one or two levels or increase their breadth.

Like a salesperson who has potential to be a manager, or someone who runs one team or location who could lead another, or a director of finance who could be a CFO.

Not necessarily today, or even next year, but you can see another step for them that’s worthy of investment.

4. A3 – promotable two+ levels

These are your future senior leaders. Super-motivated, driven and willing to push ahead two or more levels, you can spot these high-potential people rising up through organizations.

You want to invest in them and help them to grow.

What to watch for: We can sometimes be too enamoured and over-promote these keen people too soon, causing them to fail because they weren’t ready.

Assess for Success

When you think about taking someone to the next level, be sure they are ready.

  • Evaluate where they stand in their current role.
  • Test and try before you buy.

Give people projects that are consistent with the next role to see how they do.

At every quarterly and annual planning session, when you set everyone’s top three-to-five priorities for the next 90 days, help people to take on projects that are going to challenge them, or give them a taste of the next level, to see how they perform.

We worked with a company, on the other side of the world, on succession for a CEO, with two potential candidates. Although five or ten years out, we wanted to lay the groundwork and give them opportunities to grow. We assigned them additional projects and gave them coaching. After a couple of quarters, it was clear there was only one contender who moved up several notches in their role in nine months. The other one didn’t, which is okay, because he was thriving in his current role.

  • Use a Topgrading™ scorecard for the new role and evaluate the candidates against it and where they stand on the 50 different competencies.

Don’t forget, this is also a test drive for the person to try and see how they like it. Although many people are motivated, they may find they are not suited for the next big job.

This is a chance for both of you to find out without making a bigger commitment.

The Challenge

  • How can you identify the types of A-Players in your organization – whether they want to stay, or to grow and to move up?
  • How can you help those who are promotable get to the next level?
  • How can you support those who are happy where they are?

And what is the plan to help them either be the best they can be in their current role, or to get ready to move up?

For more about the types of A-Players, listen to Episode 89 of The Growth Whisperers.

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