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What If We Start Designing Our Organizations For “A Players” Only?

by David Brock on December 17th, 2017

All of us, me included, tend to think of our organizations as mixes of A, B, C players.  Implicitly, we tend to believe that’s the way things are.

We settle into routines about how we coach and improve each, at best, shifting the bell curve (or normal distribution curve) a little to the right.  All the time wringing our hands about how we improve performance.

But what would happen if we start designing our organizations to have only A players, or those that will become A players in a reasonable period of time?  Why should we accept the idea that there will always be B an Cs?

What would we have to do differently to create organizations only if A players?

First, we have to know what makes an A player.  To do this, we have to create very rich competency models describing behaviors, attitudes, skills, capabilities, experiences, psychometric qualities, cultural fit, and other areas.  We have to do this for each role in the organization.  As our businesses change we have to keep these updated.

Then we have to rigorously recruit based on this model.  Rather than settling for what we get or the best of the half dozen we chose to interview, we have to recruit for those who fit the model (or will do so after onboarding).

We have to have strong and aggressive onboarding, making sure the person we have can step into the role, performing at the level that we want.  We know if we are recruiting top talent, they will be hungry to contribute as much and as quickly as possible.

We have to recognize maturity levels in the model.  That is, there we would expect some spread between the capabilities of a new person and a senior person.  A person one year in the role might be an A player for that stage of their job maturity, but would not be an A player when compared to those five years in the role.  This drives us to think about developing our people, helping them constantly grow, enabling them to continue to be A players.

An organization built of A players only, will challenge each of us.  We have to continue to coach, develop, and grow them.  It is their expectation of us.  Because they are A players, they will constantly push us, they want to get better, they want to grow.  If we don’t challenge them, if we don’t create these opportunities to grow, if we don’t constantly challenge them, they will go someplace where they can find that challenge.

As we think of designing an organization of A players, we suddenly must realize what it means for each of us, as leaders.  We have to be the top of our games, we have to be A players ourselves,  We have to continue to develop, we have to constantly be growing and innovating.  We cannot design organizations of A players if we have B or C level managers.

Organizations that are dominated by A players exist.  They are rare, but we see them all around us.  They tend to be the leaders in our industries and markets,  They tend to be the ones we envy and strive to emulate.  Their performance eclipses the performance of their competition.

It’s actually not that difficult, we have to start with ourselves, we have to be uncompromising in the standards we set for ourselves, our people, and our organizations.  But think of what that looks like, think of the pure fun, the energy, and learning that comes from such an organization.

It’s a choice, we as leaders , make—we just have to be up to what it takes, when we make that choice.

 

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