Skip to content

Should “A Players” Care About Grammar?

by David Brock on August 17th, 2016

I’ve been having a little fun at my friend Mike Weinberg’s expense on LinkedIn.  Mike posted an update:

“Just received a condescending email from a sales rep critiquing the grammar in my latest blog post. Found it amusing and it has me wondering if he’s a top-performer/A-Player. My guys says A-Players focus on results not the grammar in FREE blog posts.”

I get as annoyed as Mike about people losing the “message,” and critiquing my spelling and grammar (and, undoubtedly, I will deserve complaints on this post.)

But it presents an opportunity to talk about A players.  Stated differently, this post isn’t about grammar, it’s about performing at the top of your game.

I won’t argue with Mike, A players are results driven.  Notice I don’t say quota driven, quota is something A players pass in achieving their goals.  A players are constantly driven by their goals, they keep upping their game, they keep looking for new personal bests.

Having said that, A players know the only way to achieve their goals is to sweat the details, because the details count.

The current Rio Olympics provide great examples.  Whether it’s Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Kristin Armstrong or any of the other world class athletes, they know that winning is all about sweating the details.  Whether it’s sticking a landing, a fast start, the number of strides it takes to win the 100, pedaling technique, or whatever; what makes them world class performers is their obsessive attention to the details.

Some mistakenly think A players focus on the big ideas, the great calls, the big deals.  That’s actually the mentality of “C” players.  They keep wishfully thinking about “the big deal,” or have grandiose ideas about how to win.

Yes A players care about those, but in reality, most I know are obsessive about the details.  They are careful with each email, every meeting is designed to help them and the customer, every interaction is designed to help them effectively and efficiently achieve their goals.  They think of every step, they have contingencies for the unexpected, they know skipping the details puts them at risk in achieving their goals.   They do this in everything they do, they aren’t just “on” with customers, but they are “on” and focused with everyone they deal with–customers, partners, colleagues.

This isn’t a post about grammar and spelling, but A players do and should sweat grammar and spelling.  They know there needs to be precision in their communication and that sometimes grammar and spelling distract from that precision.  They seek to eliminate any distraction from what they are trying to communicate—why else to they write an rewrite prospecting emails, why else to they rehearse their prospecting calls before making them, why else do they practice their demonstrations or final presentations.

They care about grammar and spelling (or insert any mundane detail like polished shoes–one of my obsessions) not because they care about grammar/spelling/shiny shoes, but because they know that sloppiness in grammar and spelling may indicate sloppiness in their thinking or execution in other areas.

A players are A players because they do it all, all the time.  No detail is too mundane because they remember the proverb. “for the loss of a horseshoe, a kingdom was lost.”

Details count, we can’t take anything for granted, we have to sweat the small stuff to produce the results we want.

A players, like Mike, make mistakes.  As annoyed as he was about the comment, I suspect he was also pissed off with himself.  He, like other A players, expect and demand better of themselves.  They are constantly learning from their missteps, improving and raising the bar on performance.

At the same time, A players probably don’t waste a lot of time calling out the deficiencies of others.  It does nothing to improve their own performance.

Are you sweating the details, do you recognize that spelling and grammar do count, but not because of the spelling and grammar?  Are you doing everything possible to constantly improve your performance, to raise the bar on yourself and your own expectations, to learn, grow, improve?  Are you prepared to do what it takes to be an A player?

From → Leadership

  1. David, the form of your message is probably more important than getting the grammar right.

  2. I am with Mike on this one.

    Getting the message right with a some grammar errors is better than messaging that misses the mark and error free.

  3. Mark A. permalink

    Dave, did you put this in just for A(C) players like me?

    “why else to they write an rewrite prospecting emails, why else to they rehearse their prospecting calls before making them”

    Or was it your editor playing games with you? I was interested in your book and found a link to this column in another one of your blog entries.

    It’s an interesting topic. I know several people who I consider to be A players in their field, and I have tried to coach them on their grammar because it does make a difference in how people perceive you.

    People should take the time to re-read what they have written, even if it is just a quick email. In this case, to, an, and to pass the spell-checker, but probably wouldn’t pass the grammar checker. Do, and, and do are probably what you meant to say.

    I remember a disclaimer in something I was reading years ago that goes something like this:
    We publish something for everyone, and some people are always looking for spelling/grammatical errors.

    • Mark, clearly it’s not just A players. The title was driven by the quote in the post that A players, producing results, need not worry about mundane details like grammar. Everyone has to worry about sweating the details, ironically, it’s the A players that tend to do this, and that may be their secret.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. If You Can’t Write, You Can’t Sell | Partners in EXCELLENCE Blog -- Making A Difference

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS