A leadership group that I belonged to was once addressed by Billy Beane, the former General Manager of the Oakland A’s. Many people have heard of Billy’s use of statistics to evaluate baseball players on their in-game performance, as his groundbreaking approach was the subject of the popular book and film, “Moneyball”.
Billy was talking to us about how to find and evaluate “A-Players” for our organization. It was (and remains) one of the most empowering and motivating talks that I have ever heard. At the time, it was very relevant as all the leaders were struggling with building A-teams. When the opportunity came, I asked Billy how to build an “A-team” when I have some B- and C- players. Without much hesitation, he replied “There is no such thing as an A-team with B- and C- players. Because those B- and C- players will bring down the performance of the A-Players, and you will end up with everyone underperforming.” My Take-Away from this exchange: A-Teams only have A-Players
How do I define A-Players? A-Players share the same motivation (WHY) and values (HOW) as the organization. (Based on what you know about their motivational alignment, coupled with their experience, qualifications, skills, and talents.) They have demonstrated that they have at least a 90% chance of achieving the goals set out for the role AND will push the rest of the organization to be more successful.
Now that you have defined your values, the next most important thing is finding great people for your organization who share those same values. These are the people who will create the products, the service, the organizational environment, and the customer experience. Without them, the most significant ideas and technologies will fail!
The book that has taught me the most about hiring the right people is Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart & Randy Street. I have tried many methods, and most (like situational interviewing) have been disconnected from the other parts of the business process that I practice. This book provides a consistent way to find and bring the best people into your organization: Your A-Players. It is also systematic in breaking down the method into four steps (Scorecard, Source, Select, and Sell) that can be turned into habits, which I will outline over a few blog posts.
Start with WHO you are looking for:
The first thing to do is be brutally clear about WHO you are looking for. Some things to keep in mind:
- Make sure they share your WHY and your HOW
- Hire the specialist, not the generalist
- Create an A-Team of A-Players; Don’t hire A-Players and hope they will make an A-Team
- Hire carefully and slowly
- Move people out of positions they underperform in – carefully and quickly.
Talking to successful leaders they will tell you that a large portion of their success is due to the talented people they work with. They don’t say this because they are trying to be modest or because they are pandering to them. They say this because it is true. Bringing the right people onto the team is the single most important decision a leader makes. Because when it is done right all the other decisions become easier.
Thoughts about Billy Beane’s (and my) approach? Have a different take on building A-Teams by developing B-Players? Would love to hear from you in the comments!
Next post in this series will be on Creating your Scorecard.