Using the Alphabet to Assess Your People

Time is the most precious resource a business owner has, but you might never come to that conclusion talking with them.

How the top person in a company chooses to spend their time largely determines the ultimate value of the organization.

Years back I remember watching a DVD of Tom Peters, coauthor of In Search of Excellence telling an audience of executives that “your calendar reveals your true priorities.”

I have always divided owners into one of three categories: firefighter, architect or benchwarmers.

Firefighter type owners thrive on the action and excitement of putting out the blazes that endanger their company. Architect types are builders and strategists. Benchwarmers sit and watch what happens, believing they play a role in the business.

Selecting and leading “A” players and having them in key positions should be how a top executive spends their time.

Some organizations have business and profit models that only require a handful of the best in order to be successful. Having said that, I believe that the more “A” players a company has, the greater it’s potential being realized.

The definition of an “A” player is someone who consistently excels and goes beyond expectations, reinventing and improving new situations. Two things describe individuals of this nature; they take initiative and purposeful action.

Additionally, for the organization, they are a shining example for others; they lead by example. These individuals buy into and live company core values.

How do you know if you have an “A” player? Ask yourself if you could hire anyone in the world to do this job, would it be this person? If there is any doubt, or if your answer is no, this person is not deserving to be categorized as an “A.”

“B” players consistently meet the expectations set for them. They support others and company values. Notice the differences between an “A” and a “B”. An “A” excels, reinvents and improves, a “B” supports.

Having “B” players are essential. Organizations can be built on “B” players but it is the “A” players who do the planning, strategy and take action.

“C” players, which are usually found in significant abundance, are simply those that are not “A” or “B” players.

No organization can have all “A” players as much as it is desirable to do so. But “A” players have to be in the key positions in order for the organization to be successful. Success means creating value.

The problem is that many owners rate their people as “A” players when they are “B” players. That happens because not many owners like to acknowledge that the people reporting directly to them are not “A” players.

A great exercise would be to rank all of the direct reports to the owner by position, not name. Once that is completed, the owner should determine what the points of constraint are within the organization.

The point of constraint is defined as the place that blocks the organization from being more successful. Wherever the constraint is, the owner has just determined that the person in charge of that department must be an “A” player.

This process can then be repeated until a candid assessment of all the positions that report directly to the owner and the people holding those titles have been evaluated.

Having “B” or “C” players in key positions will serve as a brake that will keep the organization moving forward and will provide an easy excuse for “A” players to seek employment elsewhere.

This rating system and definitions is a useful to any organization in need of a simple yet effective tool in evaluating the current performance of employees and their future potential.