If you want your business to thrive, you need fill it with A-players.
There’s no two ways around this.
If the people who work in your company are exceptional, you will build an exceptional company.
If the people who work in your company are average, you will build an average company.
I’m positive that if you’re reading this, you don’t want an average company. So you must focus relentlessly on finding and hiring A-players to join your team.
First, let’s get one thing clear.
An A-player is not the same thing as a diva. Some A-players might be divas too. But when I say A-player, I mean the people who are truly brilliant in their role.
They are world-class in their field, or they’re working towards that. Generally speaking, they’re exceptionally motivated, high-output individuals. Occasionally you’ll get a lazy one. But when it’s time to do the work, they snap into action and produce something fantastic.
There are plenty of A-players out there. You just have to learn how to recognize them in amongst all the B and C players posing as As.
How To Find Your A-Players
The most reliable way to find A-players is to look for the people who are already doing amazing work. Regardless of their level of experience, they’ll be neck deep in all kinds of projects. They’ll also be delivering exceptional quality on all of them.
The next method is to look for clusters of brilliant people. A-players surround themselves with other A-players.
They will not tolerate small thinking. They surround themselves with other people who are just as ambitious and driven as they are.
They’re incredibly ambitious, both for themselves and for the companies they work for. They are constantly finding ways to create a better vision, a better product or a better process. Their vision might even outstrip yours, which is a situation we’ll come back to shortly.
A-players are also very focused on the future. They’re not so interested in telling you what they’ve done, as where they’re going. They know what they want out of life, and how they’re going to get it.
They have an unshakeable faith in their ability to reach those goals. They’re also not scared to let you know if you’re getting in the way.
How to Attract A-Players To Your Business (and how to keep them)
As I said, A-players are extremely ambitious. Which means that you need to have a huge, exceptional vision that scares the bejesus out of normal people. You only want the people who look at that vision and think…. ‘Oh hell yeah.’
You can think of A-players like those big wave surfers who get dropped onto waves by helicopters. Most people would never dream of doing that. The ones who do make history.
Your vision has to be that monster wave. If you’re thinking small or safe, A-players won’t even give you a second thought. They want to surf tidal waves, not tide pools.
Next, you have to give them absolute autonomy in their role.
Don’t try to manage them or make them do things a certain way. Tell them the outcome you want and then get the hell out of their way.
Don’t expect them to do anything unrelated to their mission. They won’t do it, no matter how many times you ask. Find someone else to handle the drudge work for them.
You need to give them the resources they need, and you need to coach them and be available to them as they need you.
It’s also critical to remove B and C players from their orbit. A-players will feel like they’re being dragged down by lower performers. It will piss them off so much that they’ll get distracted. If you don’t fix it fast, they’ll quit.
You must furnish A-players with other A-players and no one else.
Finally, you never want to be smarter than your A-Players.
I know that sounds contradictory. How do you have a bigger vision than them if they’re smarter than you?
Well, the vision has nothing to do with your intelligence or your ability to execute on those ideas. That’s why you surround yourself with A-players whose strengths cover everything that needs to happen.
You can’t anticipate how much leverage A-players will create in your business. They are specialists at the top of their field. Even though it might hurt your ego, hiring people aren’t at your level will just shoot you in the foot.
Hire the best people, let them do their thing, and focus on becoming an A-player at leading your company.
Control The Culture
The culture of your business is determined by what you emphasise.
Zappos is a great example of this. Customer service is the number one thing in that business. They prove that by investing heavily in their customer service people. Those staff get paid above average for typical customer service jobs. They take part in a very extensive training process. They get paid to leave.
So Zappos has all these signals that say…
“This job is super important.”
And it shows in the outcome. Zappos customer service is legendary, because it’s full of A-players. They exist in a culture where everyone knows the mission and are properly resourced to achieve it.
There are structures inside Zappos that constantly reinforce how important the vision is. There are systems to weed out anyone who does not live up to the standard, so that the vision isn’t compromised.
Unfortunately, in most companies the exceptional people get run out.
Typically a huge growth spurt happens in the company that attracts A-Players. Things look amazing, so they get on board to be part of that bigger vision. Then, at some point, the vision is compromised by B and C players.
They want more stability, more accountability, and more appreciation for doing less. The culture starts discouraging the A-Players… and soon they start disappearing.
Eventually you’ve got no A-players left. Your exceptional company has settled back into being average.
You must protect against that at all costs.
Protect the vision. Make sure the vision is growing and adapting. Never think that you’ve made it or that there’s nothing left to do. The moment you allow yourself to stagnate is the moment A-players start getting restless.
A-players are going to completely up-end your company, and probably your life. They’re relentless, and they’re anything but normal.
Most of them will be a trainwreck in other parts of their life.
That’s why so many super successful people have gone through multiple marriages or bankruptcies.
The best salespeople tend to have highly addictive personalities. The best developers tend to be anti-social in the extreme.
Steve Jobs had awful relationships with his family, friends and colleagues. Tiger Woods has had as many mistresses as championships.
Most people don’t go through these things. Most people do not become Steve Jobs. Most people are not A-players.
Hiring books will usually tell you to discount the people who have ‘train-wreck tendencies’. But 99% of A-players would never let on that they are having problems – so don’t worry about this. It won’t interfere with their achievements.
If you want exceptional, you have to make exceptions. If you base your hire on how normal someone is, then you’re just going to get normal results.
Don’t be scared of this process. Invest heavily in finding and cultivating A-players. Be prepared to get up close with intensely ambitious, fiercely loyal people. Handle what needs to be handled.
Your business will thrive for it.