Charles Dudley Warner, a co-author with Mark Twain, once wrote “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” In my experience working in industry and as a talent management consultant, this phrase accurately applies to employee performance. Many business leaders, managers, and supervisors complain about issues related to performance or behavior, but do little to improve the situation.
During my tenure as Vice President of Human Resources at a regional healthcare provider, we began a process of identifying those employees who were not meeting expectations. We called it our “C” player list. Now before I am accused on being heartless or not being compassionate, please know that my definition of a manager is one who provides all the tools, resources, support, and encouragement for all employees to be successful and reach their full potential. We had an expressed goal to help every identified C player to become an A player. All actions were positive performance improvement measurements where the manager had just as much responsibility in affecting a positive outcome as the employee.
The first big question that surfaced from leadership was how an A or C player is identified. This is very important because many managers will identify the top employee based on the personal relationship he or she has with that person. Who gets along better is sometimes the measurement of our good employees. A more objective way was necessary, so we spent a great deal of time developing those characteristics to identify where certain employees fell in the list. The following are a few characteristics of an A player.
An A player has a very positive outlook on their position, the responsibilities, and the company. Even with obstacles and difficulties, an A player has a “glass is half full” frame of mind.
An A player sees his or her roles and responsibilities as fluid and are very versatile in changes or revisions that may occur to compliment the needs of the business. An A player can easily adapt to changing circumstances and add or revise tasks to overcome obstacles.
An A player is always dependable. No matter what task needs to get done, an A player will be the first to raise their hand. They are unquestionably reliable in accomplishing or at least giving their best shot to any activity, whenever needed.
An A player is selfless and does not think “what is the best thing for me” when doing the job. An A player looks at the whole to evaluate and pursue what is best. In the end, this pursuit creates a win-win situation.
An A player has an inclusive approach that involves the ideas and opinions of others. An A player realizes that everyone is connected and that a collective knowledge, wisdom, and thought will provide better results.
An A player realizes the need for constant learning and takes every opportunity available to increase knowledge and skill. Even if there is not a structured continuing education program, an A player looks for ways to learn new things independently. An A player also looks for ways to make those around better by bringing new found knowledge to others.
As easy as it may seem to recognize an A player, C players can also be easily identified….if you pay attention.
A C player gets defensive very quickly when asked to explain why something was or was not done.
A C player frequently blames other people for any shortcoming in their performance. It is never their fault.
A C player will be very protective of their own turf and will not share crucial information to solidify their perceived importance.
A C player constantly makes excuses for not meeting expectations and generally perform just enough to do what is necessary. A C player will rarely take extra measures with any assignment or task.
A C player is very good at always coming up with reasons why something will not work. In a project setting, a C player will be the constant naysayer.
A C player has little motivation to develop personal or professional skills. A C player will look at learning and growth opportunities as just another burden on top of other responsibilities.
A C player also believes that they know what is best and truly feel they bring value. They have rationalized an unrealistic sense of importance to the organization.
The other groups of employees are those who exhibit the characteristics of an A player, but lack consistency in performance and meeting expectations; and those who exhibit some of the characteristics of a C player, but may seem to try and meet performance standards and expectations.
The primary goal is to develop everyone up. The steps are: Clearly communicating expectations; providing constant feedback on performance; holding all accountable for meeting the expectations; and administering consistent consequences for performance and/or behavior issues that do not meet the expectations.
The success of the process of moving employees up is very much dependent on the attitude of the manager. A good manager recognizes that all employees have the potential to be A players and has a passion to help all succeed. A good manager sees worth and value in everyone and works hard to develop everyone up. A manager who does not look at this way may be, I don’t know, A C player? It is worth the effort to create the A Team.
To your success!
Several years ago I was on a Boy Scout camp out with one of my sons. It was a base camp located on a large plantation and there was plenty of time to explore the property. I was walking with a couple of other parents enjoying great conversation when I came across a rock about the size and shape of a potato. I stopped, picked it up, and carried it back to the camp. I can’t explain why, but something told me to keep the rock and I put it in my car to take home. When my son and I returned home after the weekend my wife asked about the rock and why I brought it home. I told her that I really did not know, but for some reason felt led to do so. I brought the rock to my office the next Monday and put it on my credenza.
A couple of days later I received an email from my mom with a story attached. Now I have to be honest, that most of the emails of this kind I used to get from mom were quickly deleted. For some reason, I read the email and it hit me like a ton of bricks…or a rock…why I had brought the rock back from the camping trip. The story in the email is as follows:
There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and God appeared to him. God told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, others, you can call them a naysayers or that negative person in your life, decided to enter the picture – placing thoughts in the man’s mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this?, you’re never going to move it!” or “Boy, you’ve been at it a long time and you haven’t even scratched the surface!” This gave the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn’t moving the massive stone.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.
“Lord,” he said, “I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half an inch. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”
To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”
That story spoke to me and reminded me that no one goes through life without struggles of some sort. Very few people live their life without obstacles or barriers that get in the way of accomplishing something or keeping us from being the best we can be. And, as hard as we try to protect and prepare, our kids won’t go through life without struggles either. It is easy to have a pity party and exclaim “why is this happening to me”? or “it isn’t fair?” Yes, we can view adversity this way and become a perpetual victim, or we can recognize these bumps (sometimes mountains) in the road as opportunities to grow and become much stronger and resilient.
As parents, it is tempting to try and remove all the rocks from the paths our children will take. We justify it by saying that we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did or that maybe it will be too much for them. As hard as it is, we have to let nature take its course and understand that the struggles, difficulties, mistakes, heart aches, etc. are all part of the process that makes us stronger. The same thing applies to those who manage other people in the workforce. Our role, as parents, teachers, leaders, managers, and mentors, is to always be there with support, understanding, and a strong shoulder. Even in difficult times, those around us should know without a doubt that they are not alone.
It is not easy. We see others who seem to have success handed to them. We see others who always seem happy as if they don’t have a trouble in the world. It could be that they have pushed their share of rocks and have become much stronger to more easily overcome those events and situations that make others cave.
That rock still sits on my desk. Although I may forget about it from time to time, it only takes a glance to remember why it is there. I need the reminder often that moving forward involves three different terrains….level, downhill, and uphill.
When you get that feeling that you can’t take any more or that everything is stacked against you, try and remember that you are in no place that others have not held before. When you face your rock, you have a choice. You can take a “woe is me” attitude or you can keep pushing knowing that with every physical exertion, you get stronger. The choice is yours.
To your success,