From the Ask Tom mailbag –
We are working hard to recruit and retain the best people. We have read that we should only look at A and B players, get rid of the C players. But, some of the people we might assess as C players for some roles, turn out to be A players in other roles.
I have always chuckled at simplistic recommendations that lump all people together without regard for complicated variables. A, B and C players in relationship to what?
Every role comes with a certain level of work (level of decision making, level of problem solving). The answer to the question, A, B or C is in relationship to the work. Some problems are simple enough that most people can solve them. But, as the level of complexity increases, some of those people will struggle. It does not mean they are bad people, or even that they are C players. It means that if we can match their level of capability with the level of work in the role, there is a foundation for an A player. But, wait, there’s more.
Capability is only one of four distinct variables required for success (perhaps your definition of an A player). Skill, meaning some body of technical knowledge, applied to some level of performance requiring practice. Without the skill, you, as a manager, may never see my capability.
The third variable is interest or passion for the work. We have interest in work on which we place a high value. High value translates into interest or passion. Without passion, there is less enthusiasm for practice, an essential part of skill development. Without interest, there is little reason to stick to the discipline that may be required to solve a problem, the tenacity to doggedly pursue an objective.
Lastly, there are required behaviors, either contracted by agreement (showing up for work on time), a contributory habit or a behavior required by the culture of the organization.
A, B and C may sound nice and easy to understand, but people are more complicated than that.