How to Manage A Players

How to Manage A Players

Whether you’re leading a football team or an entrepreneurial venture, you want to hire the best and the brightest.

You want A Players.

 


“On average, an A Player produces at least two times the work of the B Player.” -Rick Crossland

 

Hiring A Players is only the beginning. Keeping them engaged and performing at the highest level is a leadership challenge.

In this short video interview, I speak with Rick Crossland about A Players and how to manage and lead A Players.

I previously interviewed Rick on How to Become an A Player. In today’s interview, I asked him about leading and managing A Players.

Rick is an author, speaker, and consultant. His nearly three decades of experience developing, recruiting, and leading high performers is evident in every chapter of his new book, The A Player: The Definitive Playbook and Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level.

We discuss:

 

3 Definitions of an A Player:

  1. Top 10% of industry
  2. Employee you would enthusiastically rehire
  3. An employee that makes you say “wow!”

 

How to Manage an A Player

“Leaders must be a step ahead.”

 


“Leaders must be a step ahead.” -Rick Crossland

 

How to On-Board the A Player

How to Become an A Player

How to Become an A Player

 

Do you want to be a top performer?

Of course you do.

Most of us want to play at the top of our game. And we want to recruit the best possible players to help us achieve our goals.

That’s the focus of Rick Crossland’s work. Rick is an author, speaker, and consultant. His nearly three decades of experience developing, recruiting, and leading high performers is evident in every chapter of his new book, The A Player: The Definitive Playbook and Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level.

 


“You win with people.” -Woody Hayes

 

The Qualities of an A Player

What qualities make an A Player immediately stand out?

Some qualities that immediately stand out for an A Player are as follows:  accountability for results and integrity.  Pay attention to the meetings you are in over the next week and notice how many employees and managers make excuses for missing goals, or do not take ownership or accountability for solving a problem.  This is why the characteristics of A Players are so important.  The A Players are also scrupulous in their integrity.  Many people say one thing and then never follow through (or worse yet, tell a lie).  A Players, on the other hand, have integrity— they consider someone not following through on their commitment as dishonest behavior.

 


“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” -John Wooden

 

Don’t Blame or Make Excuses

I love your “line of choice” image. When a leader sees someone falling into the trap of blaming and making excuses, what does she do to get the player back on track? 

In our cultures everyone is trained on The Line of Choice.  They’ll politely call out their teammate and ask, “Isn’t that comment below the line?” or “What does an above-the-line response look like?”  Or they’ll use the ABC vernacular and ask, “What would an A Player say?” or “That sounds a lot like B Player talk to me.”

 

Copyright Rick Crossland. Used by permission. Copyright Rick Crossland. Used by permission.

 

How to Motivate an A Player

What motivates an A Player?

One thing great about A Players is the leader does not have to motivate them.  In fact, they are self-motivated.  A Players truly work for passion.  They find purpose in the process itself.  They are not coin operated.  They focus on satisfying customers, making better products, and you know what? The money follows!  In fact it flows much more freely than if they had focused on the money.

 


“A Players are self-motivated, work for passion, and find purpose in the process itself.” -Rick Crossland

 

Ethics Matter

Throughout the book, you reference ethics, morals, and character. You also talk about leaders with some big personal failings. Why do so many people fall into these traps? How do you guard against it?

So many people fall into poor ethics and moral character for a few reasons.  One is that their environment lets them get away with it.   I’d recommend you put your antenna up this week and see how many times people in your organization tell and get away with white lies or half-truths.  Odds are you will be startled by what you find.  Now the question is, are you holding them accountable to clean up their act?  The other root cause is that people suffer from hubris.  Many folks just don’t think the rules apply to them, or they think they won’t get caught.

The way to guard against weak ethical and moral character is to build a culture where there is transparency to our actions.  Societal ethics are becoming more blurred by the day.  Make the adage by Aldo Leopold, “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal,” part of your culture’s DNA.  Build your systems so someone is watching and holding others accountable.  Finally, the leader sets the tone for the ethical mores of your organization.  Part ways with leaders with shaky ethics.

 

Wow Your Customers

Great Basketball Quotes to Up Your Game

March Madness Inspiration

 

It’s March.

In the United States, that means basketball.

March Madness was born on March 27, 1939. The record for the most successful team ever is still held by UCLA with eleven championships. How many of those were directly under the leadership of legendary basketball coach John Wooden? An astounding ten. Still amazing. Pat Summit’s record is also one for the history books with six championships for Tennessee (and 1,098 career wins!).

As someone who collects inspiring quotes, there is an unending supply of great ones from outstanding players and coaches.

 

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Quotes from Basketball Greats

 

“Confidence is what happens when you’ve done the hard work that entitles you to succeed.” –Pat Summitt

 

“Those who work the hardest are the last to surrender.” –Rick Pitino

 

“What to do with a mistake: 1. Recognize it. 2. Admit it. 3. Learn from it. 4. Forget it.” –Dean Smith

 

“Sports do not build character, they reveal it.” –John Wooden

 

“In order to achieve positive results, one must work for them, not hope for them.” –Bobby Knight

 

“Commitment separates those who live their dreams from those who live their lives regretting the opportunities they have squandered.” –Bill Russell

 

“Overcoaching is the worst thing you can do to a player.” –Dean Smith

 

“Coaches win practices, players win games.” –Pete Carril

 

“Good players want to be coached. Great players want to be told the truth.” –Doc Rivers

 

“Shout praise and whisper criticism.” –Don Meyer

12 Principles that Guide High-Performance Organizations

Unlocking the Secrets of High-Performance

They may seem, at first glance, to have nothing in common—different industries, challenges, experiences, leaders, competition, you name it. But there is something about this group of organizations that drew attention and merited study.

And that was their performance. These businesses outperformed their competition. Consistently.

Brian MacNeice and James Bowen recently spoke with me about their research into these companies and their new book, Powerhouse: Insider accounts into the world’s top high-performance organizations. Brian and James are founders of the international Kotinos Partners consultancy. They are experts in high performance.

They outlined 12 principles that guide the organizations that outlast and outperform the competition.

 


“Engagement on its own is only a stepping stone to sustained high-performance.”

 

12 Characteristics

How did you arrive at the common characteristics of organizations achieving excellence?

Effectively these emerged gradually through the research. We studied each institution with an open mind and on its merits. Then we shortlisted, at the conclusion of our research in each case, what we thought were the fundamental drivers of that institution’s enduring outperformance. When we compared the lists we had created across several of the institutions, the common characteristics became evident.

Secondly, because our research process was quite extended, we had the opportunity to use some of the later studies to test and validate hypotheses emerging from the earlier ones.

Finally we used some of our client work, which was progressing in parallel, to further refine our thinking.

 

I often ask leadership experts whether leaders are made or born. You take on that question with regard to high-performance organizations and say that they are made, not born. What leads you to this conclusion?

Simply put, the leaders who we spoke to in the organizations we researched were consistent in articulating and reinforcing that view. Without exception they talked about how they viewed the enduring sources of their advantage as being their people and their organizations, and they each described their roles as being about setting direction and ambition and then facilitating and enabling their organizations to achieve and extend those ambitions over time.

Even more particularly, given that many of the organizations we researched could be reasonably described as “values-driven,” their leaders saw a fundamental aspect of their roles as being about defining, representing, facilitating and rewarding those values in their organizations. The Mayo Clinic, Tata, Doctors Without Borders (Médicins sans Frontières) and the US Marine Corps were particularly strong examples in this regard.

 


“Overengineered engagement initiatives can become impersonal and feel false.”

 

4 Pillars of High-Performance

Let’s talk about the four-pillars to delivering high-performance.

Copyright Brian MacNeice and James Bowen, Used by permission Copyright Brian MacNeice and James Bowen, Used by permission

Every organization knows it needs a plan. Where do most go wrong?

There are lots of ways in which organizations go wrong when it comes to planning, but for this discussion we will highlight two that we observe again and again in our work.

First, we suggest that organizations go wrong by planning on a basis of “inside-out” rather than “outside-in.” That is to say, their leaders tend to look at last year’s model and last year’s performance and identify tweaks they can make with a view to delivering incremental performance improvements next year. This model of planning tends to be short-term and tactical in nature and anchored in a historic, likely outdated, view of the world.

 


High performance organizations plan from the outside-in, not inside-out.

 

High performance organizations come at planning from the outside-in, using a much more strategic, future-oriented approach. They start by looking outside their organizations to understand how the context within which they operate is changing. Sometimes they do this by looking at their organizations through a series of discrete “lenses” – for example industry, market, customer, competitor, technology, regulatory, people – to understand (a) what dynamics they observe, (b) what opportunities and/or challenges arise as a result of these dynamics, and (c) how these dynamics might play out over the course of their planning horizon. Armed with these insights – in particular a much deeper understanding of cause-and-effect – they are better positioned to create strategies that bridge from where they are now to where they want to be over time. Relative to the first approach we discussed, plans developed this way tend to be more ambitious, radical and lower risk all at the same time.

Second we would suggest that organizations go wrong because they view planning as a task rather than as a capability. They view it as a chore to be endured once a year to fill a template, and which brings with it a significant cost in terms of time away from the frontline. Their engagement and investment in planning reflects this attitude – for them it’s about getting to the end of the process as quickly and painlessly as possible.

The approaches we observe in high performance organizations, by contrast, are more consistent with Eisenhower’s famous mantra that, “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.” They understand that their organizations, and the worlds in which they are operating, are always changing, and as such they develop planning as a dynamic, enduring competence. They operate “with their heads up,” tracking changes in their context all the time, taking on board the lessons of their experience and factoring insights into their plans on an ongoing basis. Some of these organizations have moved away from a traditional, annual model of budget-based planning towards a more continuous, iterative model of strategy development and deployment.

 


“Plans are nothing, planning is everything.” -Dwight Einsenhower

Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For

Become a Good Authority

What if chasing balance was actually making us unhappy?

What’s the true purpose of work?

 

“Change the game, don’t let the game change you.” -Macklemore

 

Personal and professional growth. We often think they’re different. We live our lives as if the personal and professional are in neat little silos, as if one didn’t affect the other.

I’ve often said that leaders help people with the personal, not just the professional. And sharing a little of the personal may make a big impact in the professional.

The two are interrelated.

And so, when I read Jonathan Raymond’s new work, Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For, I was excited to find a book that explained why this is…and how to use it to become a better leader. Jonathan is the former CEO of EMyth and now the owner of Refound, an advisory firm that offers leadership training and coaching. And I think his take on “good authority” will have you nodding along with what we want from the very best leaders.

 

“When you make peace with authority, you become authority.” –Jim Morrison

 

Own Your Contribution

Contrast good versus bad authority. What are a few attributes you would think of?

I’d say the first attribute is in the willingness to own your role as an authority in the first place. I see too many modern leaders try to abdicate that responsibility, either outright or in subtle ways, and try to be nice at the expense of giving people the boundaries they need to grow. The main attribute of bad authority is when a leader doesn’t own their contribution to a stuck dynamic or problematic situation. For example, a leader who hasn’t provided a reasonable timeline to reach a goal and then blames the team for not delivering on it fast enough. Good authority is the art of owning your contribution, being transparent with your team, and then moving forward in a collaborative way.

 

“Our strengths are not our own until they are freed of the burden of having to heal the past.” –Jonathan Raymond

 

Would you share a little about the concept of “borrowed authority”?

Borrowed authority is the idea that until we investigate the beliefs about authority we inherited from our parents and teachers – not to mention the business culture in general – we’re still borrowing our leadership style from the past instead of discovering the one that genuinely expresses who we are today. In Good Authority, I offer that the opposite of Good Authority isn’t bad authority, it’s borrowed authority. What I mean by that is that most leaders have good intentions, but until we do the work, we’re bogged down by ideas and beliefs about what it means to be the boss that hold us back and create pain and confusion for the employees in our care as a result.

 

“You’re only as young as the last time you changed your mind.” –Timothy O’Leary

 

Make it About Relationships

I want to ask about organizational culture. You say, “Nobody sets out to make their employees overwhelmed, stressed-out, and miserable.” I have to say that I read that and laughed, thinking, “If Jonathan only met one of my bad bosses, he’d think differently!” You’re right, of course, but people are overwhelmed and stressed. What’s are some ways to change a culture into one that is positive, empowered, and driven?

Good Authority CoverThis may sound odd, but the first problem is bad math. One of the things I ask leaders to do is to add up all the time they’re spending (1) doing re-work for a struggling employee, (2) mediating their interpersonal conflicts, (3) answering questions that they should be able to answer themselves, and (4) complaining to their spouse, partner or friends about how frustrated they are. The pivot is incredibly simple and goes against our conditioning, which is why we typically avoid it. The key to create a positive, empowered and driven culture is the exact same thing that will get you out of being overwhelmed and stressed. Repressing what you see and feel leads to emotional, mental, and physical problems, and it keeps that data away from the one person who needs to hear it in order to grow.

There’s an art to talking about work in a way that feels personally relevant to your employee, but it boils down to this: Give them feedback not about tasks and projects but about how they’re showing up as a human being. Make it about relationships, feeling their impact on others, how they avoid taking risks—those are the things that people will immediately see as helping them get better at work and at life at the same time. There’s a whole new type of organizational culture that opens up from that simple shift.

 

Leadership Tip: More Yoda, Less Superman

 

How to Become a Great Listener

What are some techniques you use to help coach someone who has problems with listening? How can we all learn to be better listeners at a deeper level?

Before we talk about the deeper cut, one simple technique that’s often used in mediation applies well in the workplace in general. Have the person you’re trying to help repeat back what they heard before responding. Highlight for them what the gaps are between what was said (and, even more importantly, how it was said) and what they heard and how they interpreted it. There’s a lifetime’s worth of personal growth work there.

 

“We teach best what we most need to learn.” –Richard Bach

 

At a deeper level, and this is something I work on every day, is to re-examine what we think our value is as leaders. That’s a lot of what Good Authority is about: to learn how the highest value we can add to our teams, and in the rest of our lives, is to put our thumb on the side of the scale that’s about creating the space for others to discover that next better version of themselves, as opposed to tending to fill that space ourselves. I love leaders and have so much respect for anyone who throws their heart into a problem with no guarantee of success. The pivot is to see how not everyone works that way, and that to create the organization that can do more than you can on your own, you have to listen for those other voices.

Finally, it comes down to not shooting the messenger. I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve seen, in fact I’ve never seen one where this isn’t true, where one person becomes a scapegoat for the cultural dysfunction and is moved out (fired or pushed into quitting), and the message they were carrying never sees the full light of day.  It’s a basic rule of group dynamics, but I see CEOs do it all the time, moving out the ‘disgruntled’ employee instead of leaning into the conversation and discovering the most powerful brand ambassador they’ve got.

 

Tip: Focus more on who people are and less on deadlines and tasks.

 

Let Go of the Past

How about letting go of the past? What advice do you give to someone who is letting the past limit their future?

Find a way to get in relationship with it. Meaning, when you notice yourself re-hashing or cycling in an old story, imagine a friend was telling you that story, what would you tell them? It’s a life’s work for sure, but learn to reframe our past in terms of how it made us the person we are today. I heard this phrase again recently that I absolutely love: “The past didn’t happen to us, it happened for us.”  To be clear, I’m not suggesting people try and transcend or gloss over traumatic or otherwise difficult personal experiences, only that we hold a bit of double-vision about them. Let yourself feel whatever there is to feel about whatever it is that you feel it’s holding back. Cry, laugh, roll up the car window on the freeway and let out a yell from the depths of your soul. By giving yourself permission to let it be what it is all the way, only then do you open up the room to see it in a new way. The paradox is that you don’t have to do any additional work to do this. It’s the process of giving yourself permission to feel that brings that higher mind back online, and you can move forward with confidence and a sense of self that might surprise you.

 

“Shake it off.” –Taylor Swift

 

How to Increase Accountability