Talented Players-Part 1

a b c playersRecently a friend pointed me to an article discussing A players, B players, and C players. I had some differing thoughts when I read it, and I’m going to break it down and discuss a few different parts of the article that need addressing.

A players are star performers. They are employees who put their professional lives ahead of their families and personal lives because they are striving to accomplish more or move upward in the organization. A players are the risk-takers, the “high potentials,” and employers enjoy finding and hiring them. They are also the players most likely to leave the organization for opportunities elsewhere.

B players are competent, steady performers who balance their work and personal lives while still doing the bulk of the work of the company. B players tend to stay put, don’t require a lot of attention, and they get the job done. Because B players stay, they tend to carry the corporate history with them.

C players are performers who are not achieving enough to satisfy their employers and are most likely to be asked to move along. In fact, a small number of organizations still use the forced ranking method of employee evaluation to require managers to rank 10% of their employees as C players with an eye toward removing them.

Take a moment to read through those again. Do you agree with them? Are they spot on, or are they off base? Did you (like me) instantly start putting your people into different groups based on what you know of them and their work habits?

Who are yours?

Think about your own team or company. Can you stick a label on each person to identify them as an A, B, or C? More importantly, should you?

Do your people need to have a label of A, B, or C stuck on them from the moment they walk in the door? I could go either way with this, so I’m not saying you should or should not. I just want you to think about your own people and if it makes sense to do it for them.

For some teams, it’s a necessity. You need to know who your go-to people are in a pinch. You need to know who’s going to put their neck on the line to make sure things get accomplished, no matter how much effort it takes. (A players!)

You also need to know who is going to be a strong choice for that long term project. It’s not particularly interesting or high profile, but it requires a steady hand and constant attention to keep it on track. (B players!)

And definitely at all times you need to know if you have any nonperformers that need to be removed. (C players!)

But maybe it’s not the best way to “box” your people in? Are you tacking on a label based on their current performance/situation when it will change over time?

I’ll talk more about this practice and on the A vs B vs C player discussion later this week. Stay tuned. Update: Click here for part 2 in the series.

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  • 4 thoughts on “A Players, B Players, and C Players

    1. Nice post………. i agree with your views for related to ” A players are the risk-takers, the “high potentials,” and employers enjoy finding and hiring them. They are also the players most likely to leave the organization for opportunities elsewhere.”

    2. Ben –
      We use a slightly different model (A,B,C,D) but the principle is similar. The important thing about categorizing people in this way is – you need to see the rating as temporary. People change, they grow, they get grumpy, they lose interest… so you need to reevaluate at least annually. We evaluate this twice annually because it’s so dynamic – and because we use the ratings to determine who we should invest the most in developing.

      The goal is to convert D players (not meeting the job reqmts) into C (average performers meet the minimum standards) or B (solid performers that consistently perform) players. We tend to invest the most time and energy in A and B players because they will multiply that investment into significant accomplishments for the company. Learning and growth are the ultimate retention mechanism for these key people – so we do our best to give them opportunities to do both.

      And, by the way, we never tell anyone what their “rating” is… because we don’t want a C player to give up or an A player to get lazy.

      I look forward to a discussion about A, B, C ratings.
      – Dave

    3. Well, you know I have a lot of thoughts on this one. So recently its been presented to me in a different light…. ouch. When we first discussed this I IMMEDIATELY changed the definition of the A player-because I AM the A player; and well because the way the information materialized to me-I automatically went on the defense to tear apart why it was a terrible campaign.So I’m an A player… what does that mean? That means I put the company and its objectives first in my life-before family and everything. That’s why we leave. We leave when we realize our stupidity [priorities] is not appreciated and it is never worth as much to the company as it is to us. That’s why we leave. So if the ideal employee is what we call a B player in this article, shouldn’t they be labeled the A player? Isn’t that who you really want? The ones that balance life and work and yada yada? C (And D from Daves post) BLOW ME AWAY. They need to go home. Period. They need not occupy the same space as A & B as far as I’m so arrogantly concerned. Rambling, I know. If we don’t appreciate the priorities of the A Player and if they are short term are they really A’s? Everything about the A definition has me questioning my own label, but thats neither here nor there. Back on point-wouldnt the definitions of A, B, C (D?) vary from organization to organization or am I just making this stuff up? Furthermore, how do your A and B players feel about C (and D) players? Do you know how they feel? I preach and yes preach is the right word, that it is possible to have a team of ROCKSTARS. You will get what you accept-why are we accepting C players? or B players? or whatever? Do we really need some of each to make the company go round or can we raise the bar?

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