This is a guest post by Rick Crossland, the author of the book The A Player. He works with organizations across the country to transform good companies into great companies.


In many businesses, managers often are resigned to the thought that having B and C Players on the team is just the way things are.  The B and C players are meant to round out the team, and not everyone can be an A Player, right?  Besides, isn’t it impossible to find all A Players anyway?

Well not so fast on throwing in the towel and tolerating B and C Players on your team! Let’s look at it this way: would you want a B or C Player surgeon performing your next surgery?  Didn’t think so!  How about a B or C Player piloting your next trip?  No way!  The point is, when the situation is critical or life threatening, we demand that A Players are doing the work Why then do companies tolerate B and C players on their teams?  Isn’t the work they do for your customers critical as well?

Leadership begins with the role of building a team to make the business thrive. When looking for team members, each company needs to establish their own set of qualifications and expectations that define the A Player in its industry.  Upon deciding who to add to their team, leaders need to select only candidates that meet these criteria.  The question is: are you actually settling for B and C Players in the rush to fill a role?   The key to having an awesome team is defining A Player performance and demanding it from 100% of your team members and new hires.

Let’s start by laying out the basics: What are the differences between A, B, and C Players?

An A Player can be described as a top performer in the top 10% of the industry for the specific compensation offered. An A Player is wholesome, driven, and possesses a strong work ethic. The A Player is the person who gives it all to the job. This person strives to have passion for their job and to be successful. In short, these are the employees you would enthusiastically rehire.

The B Player is someone who has trouble meeting deadlines, regularly failing to meet expectations, and providing more problems than solutions. In other words, their performance just skates by.  Most companies and leaders tolerate the Bs and accept them as average.  This leads to only mediocre company performance.  As someone aspiring to be an A Player leader, your job is to coach these Bs into becoming A Players.

The C Player is the employee who just works for a paycheck and does not see a goal or possess pride for what they do. C Players also fail to meet expectations and deadlines. Just like the Bs, your job as the leader is to coach them up to being a full-fledged A, or coach them out to find a role where they can become an A Player.

To help you sharpen your focus and skills on distinguishing between A, B and C Players, a whole chapter dedicated to this ability can be found in Chapter 2 of the recently released book, The A Player.

Most companies think that B and C Players are needed to fill out their team based on the law of averages. Some executives have the misconception that they actually need B and C players to offset their A Players.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  A Players are the ultimate team players and exist at all levels in the organization.  A Players crave being in the presence of other high performers.  It’s the B and C Players that drive the A Players away.  Here’s why:

First, high-level managers may not even be A Players. If the CEO is a lousy leader, what would be the purpose for an employee to perform as an A Player? When their CEO and other senior leaders are definite A Players, employees will perform better based on their stronger leadership and direction.

Second, any position within the company should be treated with an A Player mentality.  For example, the company may have just hired an entry-level person to pack boxes, but that person should have the drive and passion to be the best box packer in the country.  And tell you what, a person with this drive, passion and enthusiasm will very likely be asked to handle positions of greater responsibility very soon!

Finally, if certain employees begin to show signs of B and C Player mentality, it needs to be addressed immediately. The leadership team needs to take steps to coach their B and C Players to become A Players. Not all B and C Players can be coached into A Players, but coaching sheds a light on what performance is necessary to do the role, and when it is time for a change.  As the proven adage goes “the people will change, or the people will change.”

Just like the surgeon or pilot example we started with, B and C Players should not be tolerated within any company.   To be successful, a thriving business should be equipped with a vast team of A Player employees and a pipeline of future A Player candidates.


About the Guest Post Author:

Rick Crossland has spent more than 30 years developing, recruiting, and leading high performers. Drawing from leadership experience at companies like Johnson and Johnson, Zeneca, Planters-Lifesavers, Ford, and Limited Brands, Rick has become an internationally known expert on unlocking “A Player” talent. 

In his new book, The A Player, Rick explores the mindsets, attitudes, and activities that take careers to the highest level.