Can you win without an A Team?

Can You Win Without an A-Team?

Of course you want a winning team… and plenty enough people tell you that the best way to win in business is to hire winners, an “A-team,” proven talent, the best employees.

Jim Collins, Good to Great:  get the right players on the bus.

Jack and Suzy Welch, Winning:  Nothing matters more than getting the right players on the field.

Phil Town, Rule #1:  Why are you the best person in the world for this job?

Apollo Sinkevicius, who blogs about business at Lean Startups, takes this stance:

If we are all only looking for “A players” (add “ninjas”, “gurus”, and “rock stars”), we are missing out on a lot of talent.   Not everyone can blow $60K plus in headhunter fees to poach an individual from another company.  Forget finding those perfect matches–we need to focus on looking for those “hungry,” yearning to prove their worth, excited to grow, and itching to learn.

2. In an article in Inc. Magazine (October 2010, p. 120), author Robert Sutton (Good Boss, Bad Boss) called foul on Jim Collins, at least as far as hiring lower-wage employees in positions with high turnover.  When hiring people for these types of jobs, you need to be very clear about what makes a good-enough employee:

  • on time
  • reliable with customers
  • honest enough (by which I mean, make sure your systems for handling money don’t rely solely on employee honesty to get your money into your bank account)

If you can build a recruiting and interview evaluation process that provides employees who meet these three criteria consistently, you’ll be ahead of the crowd.

In his defense, Jim Collins’ larger point (from his website’s home page) is that greatness comes from discipline.  Getting the “right players on the bus” is one element of how the companies he profiled in Good to Great executed on discipline when it comes to their hiring processes.   Chances are, “discipline” in your business is a matter of committing to follow the systems you’ve designed so that you learn them well enough to improve them.

When your hiring process can reliably deliver employees who would play on the B-team consistently, it’s not that hard to broaden recruiting and tighten up evaluation so that you have your choice of A-players.  Remember that A-players want to work for winning teams, as well, and the first impression they get of your business is how you recruit and interview them.  Few employees want to join a company where the hiring process provides no better results than throwing a dart at a pile of resumes.  Great potential employees will want to see that you have a system that can provide them with reliable, high-performing co-workers.

Sometimes, “teams” can be bigger than your business and include your partners, associates, and neighbors, as well as your employees.  How do you think of “teams” in your business?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Steven H September 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Good to Great is one of my all-time favorites. I continuously go through his main chapters and talking points to refresh myself.

Great post!


admin September 29, 2010 at 7:56 am

Thanks! Given his attention to Circuit City, I’ve wondered if the sequel will be, Great to Gone….

I think of the triumvirate: Good to Great, Innovator’s Dilemma, and Crossing the Chasm–as three slices through the same problem set. Just listening to Seeing What’s Next in the car right now.


Olalah Njenga October 3, 2010 at 10:36 pm

What a great topic to broach. I think it depends on how one defines a team. Your “team” doesn’t have to be your employees, in fact, some of the most effective teams are the ones that are loosely connected, yet share a unifying vision that keeps everyone on point.

So glad you put this out there Karen.