4 Steps to Building a Team of A Players


What do you think of when you hear the term ‘A player’?

Someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty, someone you know you can depend on in a crisis, someone other team members turn to when they need help and support.

It stands to reason that you’re going to want to attract and retain A players to help take your business to the next level, but how do you go about this process?

  1. Finding A players

Before you begin your search for A players, take a moment to define what that means for your organisation. It’s easiest if you think about B players first. They’re the ones who are directive leaders, taking a prescriptive approach to tell people what to do and how to do it.

By contrast, A players inspire people to think for themselves, actively encouraging innovation and creative approaches. They ask questions and genuinely listen to the answers. In short, they do everything a B player does, but they take it to a whole new level, making them the kind of natural leaders you should be attracting and retaining.

Once you know what an A player should look like, you can start adapting your recruitment process to find them. Give all the leaders in your company the responsibility of actively recruiting A players. If each of them is genuinely serious about finding A players, you’ll find that your success at hiring them will improve exponentially.

Aim to interview at least two people a month, whether formally or informally. You should view recruitment as an ongoing process, rather than something you do when a vacancy occurs. This means that you’ll have an active pool of potential hires available when you need.

Improve your referral process and make it an active part of recruitment. In the insurance industry, for example, the statistics are 200 to 1 for finding someone through cold call recruiting. Compare that to just 6 in 1 from referrals and it’s easy to see which approach is more effective. After all, who knows your business better than your employees, vendors, suppliers and customers?

Invite A players to events that showcase what your company does and what you can offer them. Conferences, workshops, product launches and even social events are a great way to show off your business and make it appealing to A players looking for new opportunities.

  1. Transforming B players into A players

You don’t have to look far from home to find A players. You may well find that some of your B players have the potential to become A players with the right training and guidance. Sometimes, employees who are underperforming just need some input on the expectations of their role. If you talk to them and let them know where you would like them to be in six months’ time, they may well surprise you. However, if after that period of time, they still aren’t performing in the way you need, it’s almost impossible to assist them to make that leap without redefining their role to make it smaller.

  1. Interviewing for A players

Asking the right questions is crucial if you’re going to find the right people. The three basic questions that should form the basis of all your interviews are:

  • For each previous position, ask the candidate about the company and what they did there to help you get a comprehensive understanding of their history so you can ask meaningful follow up questions.
  • Ask them to tell you about their results, accomplishments and outcomes. You want to build up a picture of how they’d improved the business by the time they left.
  • Ask open ended, follow up questions to fill in the details, such as how did you achieve that? What lessons did you learn? What would you do differently in future? What was your strategy and how did you implement it?

You might find it helpful to team up with someone who has a contrasting interview style to yours to help you get as comprehensive a picture as possible.

Don’t overlook the importance of references. Although some companies have a strict policy against providing references or refuse to do more than confirm employment, this shouldn’t make you neglect this step. Ask the references if they can give you the names of further people to speak to about the candidate and then ask permission to talk to them. If the candidate refuses, that should be a red flag and you’ll want to know why they’ve said no. You can also cold call former colleagues for their input.

  1. How to determine when to let a poor performer go

Sometimes, with the best will in the world, an employee simply doesn’t work out. This is where objective assessments and strong communication really helps. If you’ve clearly defined what your expectations are from an A player, you can sit down with a scorecard and see how an employee is doing. This will help you identify specific gaps in performance that you can work on together with further coaching and training. However, if there are no signs of progress after six months of support, then it’s time for them to move on.

Do you know who the A players are in your organisation? What do you do to find new A players? Tell us in the comments below!

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