Managing & Hiring A-Players

Chris SmithsmartPRENEUR Blog Series

Years ago I was invited to sit in on a Vistage coaching session with a group of fellow CEO’s.

The guest Speaker was Eric Herrenkohl and he discussed his book How to Hire A-Players. Eric taught the group a simple method to create a list of traits that could be used for a given position to help ensure you found the right fit for that role. As I went through the exercise I immediately thought about the same tool being used not just for hiring A-Players, but also for managing the existing team to perform at an A level. I took that lesson back to my business and implemented it that day and have been using it ever since.

Define the Traits:

  1. A table with three columns is created for a specific position a given level of compensation. We don’t hold a Jr. employee to Sr. standards and vice versa.
  2. We imagine 5-7 traits that would make a person successful in a role. Those traits go in Column 1.
  3. Imagine your best employees (or those with the best manifestation of those traits) and write out how they exemplify that trait. ‘It would be amazing if everyone was more like Jane in this way’. That is your definition of “A”. These go in Column 2.
  4. Now imagine your worst employees (or those who you already fired) and write out how they underperform at that trait. ‘Bob was awful in xyz way and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.’ That is your definition of “B”. These go in Column 3.

Develop The Questions:

  1. Write three open-ended questions per trait that will illicit responses that allow you to distinguish between A-Player and B-Player qualities of an applicant.
  2. If you have 5 traits you’ll now have 15 questions on your list
  3. The questions should not allow an applicant to infer and game the responses

Create a Scorecard:

  1. During an interview you will ask the first question for each trait. When you get to the bottom of your questions come back to the top and ask the second question for each trait.
  2. By the time you are done with the second pass you will now have two answers per trait. If they are aligned, know your answer, and you need not ask the third question. 
  3. If you have varied responses for some questions you can ask the third question for a given trait as a tie-breaker. They have shown you who they are – listen.

Managing Existing Employees:

  1. Take the same A/B Player document and hand it to a current employee in the same role/seat.
    1. Have the given employee self-grade and hand the document back to you.
    2. Evaluate the employee yourself on a separate sheet.
  2. Compare your answers with their answers.
    1. You’ll see that most employees (at least those that are self-aware) will score themselves exactly the way you scored them!
    2. If an employee is unaware of self, you have a bigger problem and need to address that.
  3. Identify the areas that are less an A Player
    1. Determine if the employee is coachable and are you willing and able to coach them?
    2. If so, create an action plan with weekly accountability to course-correct.

Example Docs:

I have included representative samples for consideration. If you’d like a sample set please ask for a copy to get you started on your journey. Eventually you’ll have an entire library of these sheets to cover every position on your Accountability Chart. If you put it in to practice you will be hiring and managing a team of A Players in no time!

About the Author

Chris Smith

Chris Smith is the Principal and Founder of TheCoTeam. Bringing 20 years of industry experience to the custom installation space, they Coach | Consult | Collaborate with integrators and manufacturers to solve problems and run a more efficient business.