Building a Team? Here's Why You Should Think Twice About Hiring All A-Players.

My favorite opportunity as an in-house recruiter is to build a team with a hiring leader. I’m super passionate about high-performing teams! What I’ve seen is an impulse to hire a group of people who are all good at everything….cream of the crop, well-rounded A-Players. These candidates are perfect on paper, have the almost identical backgrounds, and then fail as a team. Why?

Someone has to do the day-to-day: They all want the big project and the challenging work. But in any job, there are components that are exciting and some tasks that just have to be done. A-Players don’t want to do the mundane.

A competitive environment doesn’t foster collaboration: They are all competing for the next promotion. In a situation where several qualified people are up for the one and only rare next step, chances are you will lose your talent. A-Players expect to be promoted and want the training, cutting-edge resources and opportunity to get ahead.

Lack of diversity leads to low innovation: People with similar backgrounds and experience come up with like ideas. This is a fascinating topic that I will I write about more soon! For the purpose of this article, A-Players want to be a part of innovation.

Salaries can get pushed above market: You can’t expect to pay in the 50th percentile and get the top 5% of talent. They won’t be attracted by standard benefits and perks nor retained with a 3% cost of living raise. A-Players expect total compensation that matches their abilities….exceptional.

The bench is empty: A balanced team has bench strength, people who are training, learning, and will soon be ready for a bigger role. A-Players gain from mentoring more junior employees and the team as a whole is more stable.

Depth of knowledge: While the breadth of experience is valuable, to be a true subject matter expert, one needs deep experience in a certain area. Well-rounded candidates may know a little of everything and a lot about nothing. A-Players want to be respected experts.

While I have hundreds of examples from my professional experience and from candidates, the most compelling are not even from corporate America. I learned the most about teams from my son’s first little league t-ball coach. Not having played sports as a kid myself, I wanted to help my son succeed. So early in the season, after I’d see a few balls roll between the legs and what seemed to be perfectly technical swings that didn’t make contact, I asked his coach how he was doing.

“I’d take 13 Sam’s on my team any day," he said. Knowing my son wasn’t the “star” player, I said, “Really?” The coach replied, “He comes to practice and to games on time and prepared, works hard, listens and follows directions, supports his teammates, and always gives his best. He has a lot of potential.”

And that’s a lesson that I’ve never forgotten. My son was the employee who was willing to do the day-to-day drills. He wasn’t trying to outshine his co-workers to beat them to the next promotion. He had his head in the game. He could be counted on by the other players. He was willing to learn and grateful for the opportunity. He had potential to be a star. He was a solid and very, very valuable B+ player. However, the attitude and energy he brought to the team allowed the A players to shine and challenged the average players to try harder.

See, good coaches know that a reliable base-hitter can crack in the winning run. It may not be exciting as a home run grand slam, but it still wins the game. They know that being exceptional takes work, even with naturally talented athletes. They praise the players who show good sportsmanship and set an example for others because that’s all necessary for a winning team. Experienced coaches don’t draft a team of all pitchers no matter how well they throw. They look to a variety of skills for each position, and they build their bench with potential. They recognize and develop the strengths of each individual player.

It’s something to consider: Your B talent may just be the Balance supporting your whole team. And someday that person might hit that triple that wins the game.

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