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Building an A-Team

Building an A-Team

We’ve recently become reacquainted with the quartet from the 1980s television show that spawned T-shirts, toys, cartoons and had us all asking questions such as, “Whadda lookin’ at fool?”
Yes, the A-Team has resurfaced as a feature-length remake and caused us to reflect upon the original series, or in the case of our younger compadres, become introduced to the highly skilled and daring Special Forces field operatives who were able to successfully complete assignments with a difficulty factor of 12 on the proverbial 1-to-10 scale.

Tony Richards
Tony Richards
In our businesses and organizations today, we all want top talent, the “A” players, the ones who have the capacity to take on the tough challenges, see us through and create a happy ending until the next episode. We want people who are the most productive and passionate about what they do. Every executive, manager and entrepreneur wants people who have as much passion as they do because the challenges in business have never been tougher or more volatile.
When looking to assemble our A-Team, what attributes should we look for?
The following are the key elements to consider when building an A-Team:
Alignment: Do the people on my team, or those I am considering, understand my vision for the company and its future?
Alignment is key because we want all the oars of the company boat rowing in the same direction. As the leader, it’s not enough that you have clarity of vision for your company; you need to communicate that vision to your team. You must instill the vision and explain the part each person plays to bring that vision to pass. This is a critical and a key component that must be finely tuned to produce an A-Team.
Assimilation: How will we effectively incorporate new people into the leadership team and the organization? Oftentimes, there is resistance to change from existing leadership or the team. From a leadership perspective, you must have ideas on how this new high performer is going to fit into the current structure. I would suggest having as much transparency as possible with the other team members from the beginning and enlist as much assistance from them as possible. The more informed they are, the more they will feel like a part of the process and the less resistant they will be.
Ascendancy: What is the possible career growth track for this new high performer on your team? How high is the ceiling for him or her? Do you have training and support in place once he or she begins to produce? Think strategically about what it means for the person after he or she is part of the team in one year, two years and five years. A-Team members need targets and advancement strategies for three to five years minimum.
What do you, the leader, need to look for in a high-performance person to be a part of your A-Team?
Attitude: You guessed this one, right? When we hire people with the right attitude, we can teach them anything. A great attitude can help a person conquer the most difficult challenges. Most of the time, people who have a great attitude will not just be helping you solve problems, they will actually be proactive in helping shape the organization’s future. A-Team members work hard, they’re driven to reach goals, and they continue to press on regardless of roadblocks. People with bad attitudes are negative, unmotivated and self-absorbed.
Attributes: What is their current capacity to do what you are asking them to do? In other words, do they have the skill level to produce the result you desire? Are they a B- player who, with the right training, coaching and environment, could transform into an A-player? Or are they already at the A-level and able spur on some of your in-place B-players into A-players? What can they do for you today, and what is their potential? It’s important to find a balance between attitudes and attributes.
Anxieties: When you are considering an A-Player for your team, you need to know what stresses him or her out and what concerns him or her. There might be certain elements in the organization that could be adjusted or changed to free him or her up. There might be things that your previous B- or C-level players advocated that A-players do not appreciate. After all, it’s the high performance you’re after. Remove as much blockage of that performance as you can while staying true to your values and vision.
Tony Richards is a leader in the area of personal development and senior partner of Clear Vision Development Group, a Columbia-based leadership coaching and training firm. Visit them online at or follow Tony on Twitter @ tonyrichards4.

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