Managing Your “B’s”

As managers we would like to think we are always able to identify and then subsequently hire “A” players. The reality is we likely hire more “B’s” than “A’s.” While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing it begs the question: How can we get our “B” players to become “A” players? And is this even possible?

Picture the employee who everyone agrees is a superstar. While some of these “A” players had innate ability and skill, most developed those skills, attributes, and characteristics over time. Since we likely hire more “B’s” than “A’s”, and “A’s” can be developed over time, as managers our time is well spent developing our “B” players. This holds true for both internal corporate roles, like marketing and engineering as well as field roles in sales. How do we take a “B” player and grow them into the next company star?

Analyze the “Gap”

First, you should perform a gap analysis on the individual’s strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. There is debate about whether one should focus solely on exploiting their strengths or whether one should try and develop their weaknesses. The point here is that without a gap analysis you will not know in what areas an individual may more easily excel and in what areas they may struggle. Having this information will help you as a manager provide assignments and roles that will help the “B” player grow and develop.

Next, as a manager our role is to mentor and coach. To be successful you need to get buy-in from your “B” player. Without their buy-in your efforts may prove fruitless and frustrating for both you and your “B.” But once you’ve gained buy-in and conduct the gap analysis you should then conduct both formal and informal meetings and feedback sessions. During these sessions time should be spent on performance—both successes and times when performance fell short of the goal—and coaching on other ways to tackle the problem or challenge. This is a good time for reflection, open discussion and dialogue, constructive criticism, and coaching on approaches and methods to improve performance.

Finally, in working with your “B” player, you should develop stretch goals and assignments that will provide a challenge to your “B.” With proper mentoring, a challenging assignment will provide the “B” players the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned from coaching sessions and a chance to push themselves to the next level. The key here is to provide the appropriate tools and resources to allow your “B” to grow and succeed. These tools include training, education, removal of obstacles, and your voice to champion this aspiring “A” player.

With time, dedication, and a coaching plan, managers can successfully nurture and grow our “B” players into “A” stars.


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