Hire “A” Players to Avoid the “Bozo Explosion”

Hire "A" Players to Avoid the "Bozo Explosion"

Attracting, developing and retaining the best people is not just an HR or recruiting priority, it is a leadership priority, if not THE top leadership priority.  Having the best people is a company’s only durable competitive advantage.  Business strategy and operating models can be copied, but people cannot.  If a company does not have the best people, it short-changes itself.  Why?  Because average people produce average results while great people produce great results.  The goal is never good.  The goal is always great.

To continue to raise the bar and take companies to the next level, leaders must be ruthless  about building organizations filled with A players.  They must be highly intentional about continually evaluating and upgrading talent.  The goal is an A player in every role, not a bell curve.  When companies grow, it is too easy to put up with a few B players.  The problem: B players hire C players and C players hire D players to feel superior.  If you start hiring B players and below, you can expect what Steve Jobs called a “bozo explosion” within your organization.

In contrast, A players only hire A players; people as good as them.  More commonly, A players hire A+ players; people better than them.  A players only want to work with other A players.  What is an A player?  An A player is the top 10% of talent available for a specific role at a specific level  of compensation.  They are people who can do a specific role better than you and you trust that they will get the job done.  A players can do the fundamentals of a specific role plus some.  It is the plus some that is key.

B players on the other hand can do the fundamentals of a role.  They are effective, but have room for improvement.  B players with high potential, but need addition experience, skills and time are “A players in waiting.”  They are key targets for development.  One of the fastest ways to transform B players into A players is to reduce their job requirements to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.  Finally, C players and below cannot perform the fundamentals of a role.  They MUST be exited from the organization as soon as possible.

Leaders must constantly meet and network with great people.  Even when they do not have an open position, leaders must be working to fill their people funnel with talent.  In fact, everyone in the company must take on an A player mindset that says, people are strategic.  If we are great at attracting, developing and retaining A players, we will be unbeatable in the market.  We will be able to out-execute the competition every time.  If you do not have an A player mindset, you end up having positions to fill without a pipeline of talent.  You risk settling.

For every position, you must create an A player profile setting forth the fundamentals of the role and the plus some requirements.  When interviewing or meeting with people, you must ask yourself how they compare relative to the profile.  People with 7-10 years of professional experience are prime targets.  You must know who the A players are within that population and they must know who you are.  Identify A player candidates before you need them and review your bench every month.  Who do I have?  Who do I need?

Most managers do not deal with a poor performer because they do not have a qualified replacement for them.  Or, they do not believe that a new person will be any better.  Those are not acceptable reasons within great companies.  Remember, if a poor performer is only doing 75% of their job that means the manager must carry the other 25%.  Both reduce organizational effectiveness.  Having a bench of qualified A player candidates will give managers the confidence to make changes when needed.  Do not settle!

All contents copyright © 2011, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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