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Ken Keller: Why you need “A” players in the job market

Posted: March 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.

In my opinion, companies that under-perform almost always lack enough “A” players to become a breakthrough organization.

Through the years I have witnessed businesses leap forward with top employees on the payroll, and properly lead.

I have also observed companies fail because they did not recognize the need to hire top employees and place them in key positions.

If they did hire great employees, they did not put them into the right roles or not enough of them were hired to make a difference.

It can be argued that some business models don’t require the best employees because the systems and procedures are set up to allow the company to hire marginal candidates and literally plop them into a job with a short orientation and some basic training.

But most companies aren’t like that; most organizations need a high quality go-getter to thrive. Unfortunately, that person is usually the founder or owner of the company.

Owners aren’t always inclined to hire top talent. It can be expensive. The process can be demanding, long and disappointing. New employees might not fit with the company culture.

Also bringing in top talent may require some internal changes that might generate resistance. And, the owner might see a new hire as a threat instead of an opportunity.

What is an “A player? This employee elevates all those around them through setting an example. These individuals encourage, motivate, and drive those around them to a higher standard of excellence and performance. When they take responsibility for a department, a result or a function, they own it every aspect of it.

Do these individuals have strong egos? Perhaps, but more importantly, they have a strong desire to succeed and achieve for the company. They set personal achievement behind that helping their company winning.

I know I am dating myself, but as a then life-long San Francisco Giants fan, I watched a Hall of Fame player, arguably the best all time player second baseman leave after just two years because the owner would not agree to his compensation demands.

What I came to realize was that the Giants were a mediocre organization; and they were for many years following the departure of Joe Morgan.

Joe Morgan did not ask for a salary increase after his contract was up. What he did ask for, and his offer was turned down, was that he receive additional income based on the team achieving its goals, and he achieving goals in the next season. To be a life-long Giants fan I was also a long-suffering Giants fan. I was frustrated and shocked when the owner rejected the offer made by an “A” player as measured by every imaginable statistic. It wasn’t that Morgan was a great player; what was obvious was that he elevated the playing of his teammates.

Morgan was all about winning baseball games. He was also all about energizing his teammates to play hard, minimize mistakes and get on base and score runs.

Companies that are serious about improving to get stronger financial and market performance have certain characteristics about them. You’ll find “A” players in key roles; encouraging, challenging, doing more than is expected for the company and their fellow employees.

You may not be ready to hire an “A” player today. But your competition is.

Ken Keller facilitates The Wise Owners Advisory Boards, bringing business owners together for education, sharing and on-going success. Contact him at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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