Should we only be looking to hire "A" players?
There has been a long-standing debate over this, because despite the great appeal of going after the very best people, lots of managers know that you also need "B" players (and in some cases, even "C" players, to keep a company moving ahead.
The case for hiring "A" players
An article in Forbes a few years ago made the case for "A" players like this:
Without a steady team of “A-Players,” it’s virtually impossible to establish an office culture that harbors performance and motivation. A strong work ethic — perpetuated by “A-Players” -- is contagious and can even lift the “B-Players” that made it past the interview stage into “A-Players.” But without that all-important culture, employee morale will suffer. ..."
Hiring "A" players seems like a no-brainer if you are looking to improve your organization by going after the best of the best, but there is also a strong notion that "A" players don't exist in a vacuum and that they need a strong supporting cast to help free them up to do their best work.
But, do we need 'B" players, too?
This article last year at TLNT articulated this point pretty clearly:
Too often, our official recognition efforts are limited to the A-players, forgetting that the A-players can only continue to meet very-high expectations with a solid roster of Superstar B-Players right behind them. ... Our challenge as leaders is ensuring B-players get the recognition, praise and appreciation they so richly deserve."
This 'A" player vs. "B' player debate is an interesting one, and if you ever find yourself falling into it, I think it makes sense to go back and listen to what the biggest advocate for 'A" players used to say.
Yes, even though he's gone, we can still learn a lot from Steve Jobs.
What Steve Jobs has to say
This video interview back from 1995 has Jobs expounding on just why hiring "A" players is a good thing -- and why the more of them you have, the better it is for both your organization AND your team of "A" players. He says, in part:
I've built a lot of my success off finding these "truly gifted" people, and not settling for 'B" and "C" players, but really going for the "A" players. ... I found that when you get enough "A" players together, when you go through the incredible work to find five of these "S" players, they REALLY like working with each other because they have never had a chance to do that before. And, they don't want to work with "B" and "C" players, and so it becomes self-policing, and they only want to hire more "A" players, so you build up these pockets of "A" players, and it propagates ..."
My take: It's hard to resist the logic and persuasion of a leader like Steve Jobs, especially now when we can see how much that Apple, his greatest creation, misses him five years after his death. He makes a great case in this 2 1/2 minute video for why hiring the "truly gifted" should be your ultimate goal when building an organization.
But, I also believe -- and we have plenty of examples that bear this out -- of organizations that have tried to put together an all-star team of talent only to have it blow up in their face when they found that yes, you also need role players to make everything really work.
You'll find "B" and sometimes "C" level talent are the role players you need to make things happen, and my guess is that even Apple under Steve Jobs had these kinds of people to help hold the larger organization together. Watch this brief video and see if you agree.
Editor’s Note: The Talent Insider blog is fueled by Checkster, and Checkster has some really great tools — like the Reference Checkup, the Interview Checkup, and the 360 Checkup — that can help you to make better decisions about people who can really fit your company culture.