Stop looking for “A”​ Players

Bill Belichick wouldn’t put Tom Brady in as a linebacker and Lin Manuel Miranda would not cast Taylor Swift to play Alexander Hamilton. Wait, Taylor Swift could probably pull it off. Okay, my point is we are all exceptional in something but that something is specialized, not standardized.

Yet in business today, we still see the vestiges of an old, standardized approach to evaluating people. Anyone read, “seeking an ‘A’ player” in a job description lately?

The model of leaders stack-ranking people into “A,” “B,” and “C,” classifications across standard criteria seems to put the overwhelming emphasis (read: pressure) on the employee to solely manifest value. While the employee must certainly take ownership of their own development, is it not the shared responsibility of a quality leader to help find, nurture, and cultivate an employee’s unique value?

Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight and my recent guest on the Voice of Value podcast, says that as leaders, our teams are best served when we accept people in all their flawed glory. “It would be wildly unfair to compare your charismatic sales legend to the introverted developer who can code like a ninja, and vice versa,” he says. Stack ranking, he argues, obliterates the nuances that make us interesting human beings.

Instead of focusing on finding “A” players, Nick urges leaders to “find the genius in the person already on the team and put that employee in the right role.”

Perhaps leaders should stop focusing on the “A” player and, instead, challenge themselves to create the “A-Team.” (For fans of the classic 1980’s TV show, Don’t you love it when a metaphor plan comes together?)

Well, not THE A-Team, but an “A” Team. When a leader envisions the team as a whole, composed of individual players who bring something unique to the mix, then that leader can amplify the team’s best performance. Listen to more of Nick’s enlightened leadership approach on his full episode on the Voice of Value podcast, available here.


Enterprise SoftwareChad Quinn, CEO, Ecosystems
Chad Quinn is the CEO of Ecosystems. For over 20 years, Chad has led the organization, focusing on helping Fortune 500 companies set up Value Management Offices (VMOs) to discover, quantify, and track business outcomes. Chad’s passion is to impact the lives of others. As host of the Voice of Value podcast, he discusses with B2B sales, marketing, and customer success leaders how to make your value clear. When he is not interviewing podcast guests, like Stanley McChrystal, J.B. Wood, or Beth Comstock, Chad enjoys long walks to Mars.


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