In “Why hiring is paradoxically harder in a downturn” it was pointed out that A players can be 10 times more productive than C players. That big a difference can’t be from just being better.
A players are much more productive because they do things differently. You can’t be 10 times more productive by working harder or faster. Being 10 times better comes from not doing unneeded work, from doing required work in a different way, and from getting others to work in a way that creates an overall more productive result.
C players follow the rules and either lack skills or talent or just don’t try very hard. B players follow the rules and try hard. A players break the rules and change the game all together. A players are innovators.
You might feel you need B and C players until the A player figures out how to get the job done without anyone doing it. Since A players change the game you might not need anything except a few A players who work together. But since A players aren’t just more skilled they do things differently, if allowed they will show everyone how to raise productivity.
B players focus on skills. B players are better. B players are easy to spot. They have good grades, good references, and steady employment history. B players are what all the books on interviewing tell you to hire.
A players do things totally differently. A players might have top notch grades or they might have dropped out. But they do excellent work. A players might have horrible references but an amazing track record. A players tend to make B players jealous or frustrated. The B players TRY HARD but can never achieve the level of A players because the A players “cheat”, they play a different game.
Since B players fit the mold they tend to be mid level managers and many times will chase away A players. But if the B player can play the support role a B player can manage an excellent team of A players.
A players often do their job for the love of doing it well. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to be paid well, they do and deserve it. Allowing A players to reach the next level, that includes doing something totally different not just more of the same, is very important to A players. A players might seem like show-offs some times but probably are not motivated from the attention. They want to achieve the best possible. They don’t compete with others, they compete with themselves. In that way they often don’t even understand the idea of ranks of A, B, and C. They just want to do the best possible.
A players often don’t care about relative status. Paradoxically that makes them seem arrogant which is opposite from the truth. They just don’t care about meaningless ranking so they might not hide it (seeming boastful) or don’t honor it (seeming disrespectful). A players tend to be task focused so they don’t care about status, only results.
There are A players for everything so some of what I described does not exactly fit all roles. If the role requires tremendous empathy then the A player for that role will be hyper aware of ranking and status and play it to the best advantage.
If you want the best from A players, get out of their way and let them play.
How do you find and attract A players? Get rid of the Human Resource department. A players are not generic resources. A players are talented individuals. Since A players are often looking to achieve something spectacular, offer opportunities to do it. These types of roles won’t appeal to C or B players so they will weed themselves out. Highly performance based pay will attract A players and scare C & B players away.
Highly challenging tasks with real freedom to do chose how to accomplish the task will draw A players.