What's your definition of an A Player?

June 9, 2011

One year ago, I wrote a quick blog post on “What’s your definition of an A Player”. It was just a few sentences.

Definition of an A Player: a candidate who has at least a 90 percent chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only 10 percent of possible candidates could achieve. Who cares if somebody has 90 percent chance of achieving a set of outcomes that anybody could accomplish? You don’t want to be good. You want to be great.

I got this definition from a book that I had read called “Who” by Geoff Smart & Randy Street. It’s a excellent book on Topgrading. A large focus of Topgrading include special principles for hiring employees. I was introduced to this concept in my Entrepreneurial Masters Program. My class consists of 64 other CEO’s from around the world and I would have to say after 13 months of this program, the one thing that nearly every CEO would agree on is that this concept of Topgrading is one of the most important things to implement in a company. I’ve also heard from other CEO’s that say if you hire a “A Player” then they are worth more than a couple of good employees.
Andy Liu, CEO of BuddyTV, stated in his blog Here’s an A player:

“They are always stretching goals that you set and they hate to lose.  They take personal responsibility for everything.  They push the people around them to set higher bars, to compete, to put in the necessary time.  Startups are not for the faint of heart and they are definitely not for the clock-watching employee.  The A-players thrive on startup energy, they love how fast things can get done, they hate bureaucracy, they expect excellence, and they want to make a real difference.  Ultimately, they care.

I’ve got to completely agree with Andy on this. In a big company, they seemingly tolerate having B and C players. But in a small company where resources are limited you can’t afford to keep them on the team.

Where’s your time being spent?

As a person running your company, is your time being spent managing the B and C players? Or is your time being spent on helping your A players accomplish even more? Since coming back from Boston, my commitment is become a better leader and help nurture my A team. I know that I’ve got to learn how to better nurture employees and balance that with running at hyper speed. What are some of the things that you do to help grow your A Players? What do you do so that you don’t outgrow your employees?


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