Identifying top quality players in your team

MVP-Michael JordanEvery leader looks for that match-winner that she can count on to deliver in all tricky situations.  All the leaders I have come across have one or few such top quality players in their teams. 

You must surely have read about appointment of top executives and how they “bring their own team”!  This team is nothing but a collection of “A” players or MVPs.  These executives have blind faith in these players and are comfortable or have experienced success with the A players in past endeavors.  And the leader is confident that this team gives him/her the best chance of excelling in the new appointment.  In fact one of the major perks for the recruitment of top executives is the number of players they can bring on board.

To become an effective leader, one must not only be aware of this very important concept, but also on how to identify such top players. 

One of my favorite writers, Victor Cheng very recently wrote an excellent piece on this topic titled, “How to be a Superstar in Corporate”.  This is a must-read.

In a very early post, I have written about the race-horse vs. cart-horse concept, which is not too different.

The personality concept is of such importance in leadership that I also followed up that post with two others on the same topic.  One is the importance of having an MVP in your team and the other is about “parent” vs. “baby-sitter”.

In my opinion and experience, to become an effective leader, one must be able to identify and groom A players.

An A player excels in his/her job, produces a high-quality output, is proactive, understands the big picture, mentors and manages other team members, task and schedule and also other stakeholders.

According to Victor, B and C players can be groomed to become A players, especially when the situation or job to be handled falls within their realm of excellence. 

While this is possible to some extent, there is one other quality of the A player that is very difficult for others to imbibe.   This is the ownership and accountability that the A player assumes upon being assigned a task.  This enables the leader to repose blind faith on the A player that he/she will deliver.

The situation, skill-set, composition of team or difficulty of assignment just does not matter.

This is how GE is able to pull top players from one department and assign them to another totally different line of business and still expect them to deliver.  These are the players, who simply take it upon themselves to deliver.

As an effective leader, you should look for players who deliver top results in different situations, different assignments and do NOT adopt a cookie cutter approach.  Check out their comfort level with ambiguity.  Do they expect to be told everything and guided every step of the way?

To deliver a high standard of output, it requires greater application, higher skillset, more time and effort and in some cases, more dollars.

Conversely, if the standard was not as important, then people tend to take the path of least resistance and deliver a lower quality output.  But the top players maintain their standards of excellence and continue to deliver a much higher quality of output.

Seek out the team member who stands by the quality of her or his results.  

Whether a captain needs to win a cricket match or a manager has to deliver a successful assignment, having such an A player certainly helps.  Of course, the rest of the team has an important role and they deliver.  But it is the A player that can crush major obstacles, defeat tough opposition and overcome unforeseen issues to help clear the path and help the team succeed.

One of my buddies who was taking on the cricket captaincy one season sought me out for some tips on how to lead his team.  All I told him was to imagine the championship game four and a half months later and pencil the team that would give him the best chance of winning that game.  This exercise, I told him, would give him an idea of his “core” match-winning unit.  He could then add the other players around this core, work out the balance (keeping clarity of roles in mind) and thus give himself the best chance of winning the championship.

In hindsight, this was nothing else but identifying the A players for the task!

Please share your thoughts using the comments section below.

Image: (c)