A-Level Players have the ear of the C-Suite

In an Accountemps survey of 1,400 chief financial officers (C-suite executive), they were asked “what are your employee-retention tools once the economy improves?” 50% said promoting top performers, 48% raising salaries, 41% investing more in professional development and 32% said enhancing benefits.

Companies are revisiting and redefining their ideas about which employees are “high potential keepers/top performers.” A-Level Players are the men and women who’ve proven their relevancy to the organization through their innovation, insight and performance. Organizations prize A-Level Players because they are adaptable – they can move to other areas of the company and add value. B-Level Players have demonstrated some potential, but their productivity is inconsistent. And C-Level Players, bless their heart, are those who’ve sat on their blessed assurances like frogs in a pot of water on the fire – they can sense that the environment is heating up, but they don’t have the desire or the urgency to do something to save their skins.

In the past, workforce reductions typically involved C-Level employees. But in today’s do-more-with-less business environment, more often than not, B-Level Players are being invited to find their happiness elsewhere as they are shown the door.

Just this week, John, a friend of mine told me a compelling story. As he walked into his office one morning, his manager asked to speak with him – privately! His boss gave John the good news that he’d just received a substantial bonus. However, the boss then went on to explain that, effective that very same day, the organization was undergoing RIF actions (Reductions in Force) and that John’s counterpart in the department was being let go.

Now, that may not seem like a terribly interesting story…until I tell you that John has only been with the organization for six months (and earned a sizable bonus), while his counterpart had been there five years (and received a pink slip). Furthermore, in the performance review John received just the week before, his manager noted that John brought best-practice methods to the department and the organization, saved the company money, identified potential revenue streams, and assisted other co-workers and departments in meeting their goals. Sounds to me like John is an A-Level Player!

And what about his counterpart who was let go? John described her as a good soul and someone who was a team player, completed tasks on time and did what she was asked to do. In other words, she was a B-Level Player.

Friends, let me put the truth on the table: Being a “good” employee or manager simply isn’t enough anymore! Jim Collins says “good is the enemy of great.”

Now, let me ask you: Which type of player are you today? Which type of player do you aspire to be?

The hard truth is that most people are B-Level Players. And that’s okay – do you know why? Because you can change! With a sharpening of your skills, a change in your mindset and an adjustment of your focus, you can become an A-Level Player. Furthermore, due to differences in objectives, roles and responsibilities, someone who is a B-Level Player in one organization might be an A-Level Player in another. It’s all about the right fit.

If you want to move up in your organization, make more money, earn some recognition and achieve a sense of accomplishment, then rid yourself of all forms of mediocrity. If you spend much of your time looking busy instead of effective or important in front of the boss, or politicking for advancement or a bigger raise, you might want to rethink what you’re doing. Otherwise, before long, you may be looking for another job.

A-Level Players are relevant and have the ears of the C-Suite *(CEO, COO, CFO, CMO, CLO, CIO and CTO). They are entrepreneurial-minded in all they do. High potential people are the CEOs of their jobs – they take ownership and make things happen instead of waiting to be told what to do. A-Level players have radical insight and ask, “What if?” or “Is there a better way to achieve the goal?” They think strategically and innovatively about ways to generate revenue, save money and create efficiency.

A-Level Players are invited to special luncheons with the C-Suite and placed on special task forces to advance the strategic direction of the company. A-Level Players are known by name and have become a brand within a brand. They are known for results and don’t have to pound the table to get recognition. A-Level Players are mentored by C-Suite because they are seen as future leaders. A-level Players “get the big picture”, they don’t have to be told it a thousand times. They have a clear line of sight as to where they fit, where their team fits and where the organization is going. No one has to babysit them and hold their hand.

A-level Players have outgrown the adult day care center, while B-Level Players have the potential to walk on two legs but sometimes crawl, and C-Level Players are waiting for someone to pick them up and carry them. I am sure by now that you get the picture.

And finally, top-notch employees and leaders follow the same forward-thinking principle as the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky, who said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it is.”

How can you become an A-Level Employee?

Identify ways to make or save the organization money.
Propose a better way of completing a task or process.
Determine how you can integrate the various “hats you wear” into a strategic role that touches several parts of the organization.
Raise your hand and take on the project that no one else wants.
Execute consistently – follow up and follow through. Don’t allow projects to die on the vine.
How can you become an A-Level Manager?

Coach your A-Level Employees for retention, your B-Level Employees for performance, and your C-Level Employees to find their happiness elsewhere.
Teach your team how the finances work in your organization. Enhance their financial intelligence so they can contribute to the bottom line.
Give a portion of your bonus to those staff members who assist you in achieving your goals. (I suppose HR might shoot down this idea because C-Level Employees could cry discrimination…oh well, it was a good thought. Laugh…I did.)
Make a commitment to read Fast Company, Wired, Fortune Magazine, Harvard Business Review and download any of the TED talks. It will give you incredible insights into how to be an innovator in your organization.If you’re performing multiple roles in a do-more-with-less corporate culture, consider it a blessing instead of a curse. Why? If you’ll pay attention, you should be able to develop relevant insight into how to improve the business.

Every day, you have a new opportunity to demonstrate your insight and innovation. What are you waiting on? Move it. Move it.

good boss, Personal Accountability, Release Your Brilliance

2 Comments

  1. Dana Clary November 9, 2011

    Simon – how about integrating a “share this article” at the end of each blog entry? (twitter, FB, email, etc).

    • simonb November 14, 2011

      That’s a really good idea. Ummm…I will have to learn how to do it.