It’s often said that A players hire A players, while B players hire C players, or worse.
A players hire A players because they understand that the single most important responsibility of a manager is to deliver value to the organization from his team that vastly exceeds the cost of supporting that team. And the best way to deliver that value is to make sure that every member of the team is a top value producer. The brightest, best, most driven, hardest-working staff members that you can find. A players know that a great team is more than the sum of its parts. That by developing a strong talent bench, one that not only represents a depth of knowledge but also capitalizes on its diverse viewpoints and backgrounds through effective teamwork, a team can create better products, more complete solutions, more creative work.
A players also know the challenge of having C players on the team–lower productivity, higher training and coaching investment, and potentially more pernicious problems like resentment among the A players for having to carry the C players’ load.
If the benefits of a strong team are so overwhelming, why wouldn’t everyone chase down, tackle and hire the very best for their organizations?
John Maxwell addressed the need for teams in his book The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. Law #1 is The Law of Significance, which states that no truly great achievement is ever the work of one individual. Maxwell provides some reasons why people try to go it alone when creating their professional vision. These reasons also describe why B players don’t recruit the very best talent for their organizations. In either case, they’re missing a full appreciation for the incredible value that a well-chosen, smoothly running team can bring to any project.
- Ego — If only we really could do it all. But in truth, we have limited time banks, limited skillsets, and one narrow perspective. Regardless of our intelligence and depth of knowledge in our field of endeavor, our weaknesses and blind spots threaten to at least slow our success, if not undermine it completely. Effective managers accept that they can’t do it all, and make sure that they have talented people around them to fill in the gaps.
- Insecurity — The opposite of those suffer from excessive ego, insecure leaders are uncomfortable with trying to lead people that they see as superior. Perhaps they doubt their management capability and are afraid of being “found out.” Or maybe they believe these star performers will oust them from their jobs. It’s not uncommon for a manager to successfully lead a team that performs work he’s never done. Top managers understand that their job is not to know everything to solve problems, but to make sure that the overall team examines and addresses every angle. By understanding their role and the value they add to the team, top managers aren’t threatened by strong, competent, talented, driven team members.
- Naiveté — “Top managers know,” I say. Well, some managers don’t know. Perhaps she hasn’t had a strong role model for effective management. Maybe he’s like so many managers who earned promotions by being strong individual performers, but struggles to make the transition to organizational leader. But as with any endeavor, the only way to develop management competencies is by a commitment to learning and practice. Top managers are committed to learning about the discipline and practicing what they learn, including how to identify and attract top talent.
- Temperament — Some people just aren’t team players. Others aren’t inclined to accept the challenge of supporting a team of high performers. Some aren’t comfortable with staff that will challenge the status quo. Unfortunately, if a manager isn’t inclined to create a high-performance team, because they don’t care to learn or because they don’t feel it’s in their personal best interest, they will never be an A player without a fundamental paradigm shift.
As a manager, what can you do to move into A player territory if you’re not already there?
- Examine your results — Honestly, how would you rank your team? How many A players do you have? How many B or C players? Which of these did you hire? Are there problems in the team because of differences in capability?
- Examine your motives — Give some hard thought to how you select staff. Have you ever seen a stellar candidate that you declined to hire? Why? What were your feelings in that moment? Could your decision be linked to Ego, Insecurity, Naiveté or Temperament? How might you change your thinking?
- Get educated — Learn about the talent market in your industry. Study what makes people successful in your organization. Reach out to others who have built strong teams and ask their advice.
- Practice. practice, practice — Build into your hiring process ways to capitalize on your enhanced understanding of the organization, market, and role. Be consistent about how you identify and evaluate candidates so that you can make fair comparisons.
- Insert feedback loop — After you hire someone, record how they perform and compare it with your thoughts while interviewing. Did they get up and running as quickly as you expected? Are they as productive as you expected? If their performance doesn’t match your expectations, how could your hiring process be tweaked to better evaluate that issue?
Selecting top talent is a skill built over time. But with practice, and the right mindset, you can develop a powerful team that will not only deliver for your organization, but cement your value as a manager that can build and support a high-performance team.