How to Build a Successful A-Team

How to Build a Successful A-Team
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Running a company is indeed a lonely job. CEOs and family business members have all the responsibilities of the company’s achievements on their shoulders and in this current economy, that is a heavy weight to bear.

The main pain point each CEO faces, regardless of the company size or industry, is their people. Companies understand that their biggest asset is their workforce and rather than having a large potentially ineffective team, having a small team made up of A-players allows the CEO to concentrate on business growth confident that their team will implement the business plan.

But how do you build an A-player team? In the first instance, you need to identify who on your team is currently an A-player. You do this by measuring how each individual score against 2 axis – their fit against the company “core values” and their current “productivity” in his/her role. A-Players fall into the grid that indicates high fit against both measures.

This exercise also identifies your current C-players, those that score extremely low on both axis. Action needs to be taken urgently to avoid a common mistake company’s make, falling into the C-player trap. The number 1 reason A-players leave a company is the perceived tolerance of C-players (often due to disciplinary reasons or requirements to address C-player behaviours).

Next step is to identify where your A-players are sitting within your company, are they in the key seats on your Organisation chart? Do you have vacant key seats within your company structure, or even worse, is a C-player sitting in the role? Once you are aware of your gaps, this forms your urgent recruitment drive.

Recruit for attitude and train for skill. In his latest book, “The ideal team player”, Patrick Lencioni (author of the 5 dysfunctions of a team) refers to these “soft” skills as hungry, humble and smart – if you can find someone who is hungry to make the company successful, they show humility in their role and they are blessed with common sense and people smarts, then you are going a long way to finding the right candidate.

We have seen real success with our clients when they focus the recruitment process on checking cultural fit. We would recommend that you gear your formal interview questions away from the CV and what the candidate has done previously to concentrate the process around competency-based questions that provide you with details of how they fit into the company culture. We would also recommend your taking the candidate out of the formal interview process, to find out the real person you are looking to hire. Take them for coffee, have them run an errand with you to see how they interact with your current employees when relaxed and away from the stress of the recruitment process – this way you will start seeing the real person and hopefully stop you from a miss-hire.

We would also recommend using some form of psychometric to check behaviour and attitude. We use Innermetrix with our clients to help them focus on potential problem areas and cultural fit.

Once you have your team of A-players, the next challenge to keeping them engaged and focused on the most important priorities of the company on a quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily basis. Training and development is key to maintaining their engagement and loyalty to your company. In our experience, in times of cost focus, the training budget is usually the first to get reduced which is a false economy – as the old saying goes “training is an investment in continuous improvement that will result in one of your greatest ROIs”.

To quote Anne Mulcahy, “Employees are a company’s biggest asset; they are your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best, provide them with encouragement, stimulus and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s mission”.

Mike Hoff is a Certified Gazelles International Coach and Founder & CEO of MHC.