You're Killing Your "A Player"

Leadership Development in San Antonio

I founded the San Antonio Business Leadership Academy nearly 8 years ago. It was the best professional decision I’ve ever made, hands down. Having 13 years experience developing leaders in Corporate America permits me a unique perspective that many consultants haven’t seen. In this post I will share a phenomenon I see every day.

As executive leaders, your time is short. Frankly, you have too much to do. I know and I get it. But this post isn’t about you. This post is about your “A Player”.

Who is your "A Player"?

Our “A Player” clearly stands out. The rest of your employees know who the “A Player” is in their department or company. It’s the “guy who makes the rest of us look bad”, yet he’s the “guy we want on our team,” because he or she will do all the work. They would rather take on 100% of the workload as opposed to turn in anything less than excellent quality. Yet, the entire team gets the recognition equally. This is more than frustrating to your “A Player” than you know. But, you let it happen, because you know if your “A Player” is on the team, you can turn your back and know it will get done by the deadline, and it will be done extremely well.


Your “A Player” is highly-engaged in his or her own goals and the company’s goal. Chances are he or she was raised with an excellent work ethic and success mattered. How much does success matter to you? If you took the number of hours your “A Player” actually works, it would be perfectly clear that they are not receiving the pay and recognition they are worth.

Everybody is familiar with the Pareto Principle or The 80/20 Rule

Only 20% of your employees drive 80% of your business. This means if you employ 10 people, only two are really doing the work. If you employ 50, 10 are doing the work. And if you employ 100, close to 80 are dead-weight. If you calculated the number of hours they actually work, you would be horrified by how much you are paying them.

But, that 20% gets taken for granted. Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise. Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted. It means you have become a trusted, comfortable part of someone else’s agenda. Why do you allow this to happen?

The A Player

Who are they? They are rare and they are special. People generally take extremely good care of things that are rare and special to them. So, why don’t you see your employees the same way? “A Players” have a great attitude. They exponentially outproduce a majority of your less engaged staff. They are literally a dream come true for any leader in any organization.

How Do You Turn This Bus Around?

You know who your “A Player(s)” are, so no time is needed to try to determine who they are in your company. You know!

The Six Best Things You Can Do for Your “A Player(s)” Starting Tomorrow

1. Stop treating them like they are average or just like any other employee you have. They provide you with extraordinary performance. You need to provide them with extraordinary praise. You cannot say “thank you” enough. Reward them on-the-spot. Do not lag by waiting until their annual review or company awards banquet.

2. Consider your expectations of performance for every project and task. If they are exceeding your expectations, acknowledge it! Stop treating the outcome of everyone’s work to be average, because it’s not! Recognize those individuals and teams who provide you with extraordinary results. Give a company-wide “shout-out” to the individual or team. Let them do the work provided in their Job Descripti

3. Let them do the work provided in their Job Description. Job Descriptions provide the parameters of an employee’s job role and responsibilities. Never make an employee conduct tasks that are outside of his or her Job Description. It’s just wrong! But, you slip tasks here and there to your “A Player” that are not their responsibility. However, they always say “yes”, because “A Players” take initiative and have such a strong work-ethic that they will find a way to fit it into their regular job role and responsibilities. Unfortunately, by doing so, they must neglect other things in their lives such as their health or time with their family.

4. Stop neglecting them, because you think they do not need your advice or guidance. You are their leader! They are expecting and hoping for feedback from you. Everyone has room to grow in their job. Give them feedback, coach them, check in on them to see if they need anything. Ask them about their career goals and then help them get there. That’s your job!

5. Be attentive to the workload you provide all of your employee. Your employees are working “hard”.But, your “A Players” are working in the evenings. They are working on the weekends. They are answering emails at midnight. They are finalizing forecast at 5:00am. And it just never stops. Part of the problem is that you are giving them work outside of their job role. Another problem may be that their job role has expanded to the point you need to hire another employee to share the load. You’re killing them!

6. While your “A Player” may seem super-human to you, the fact is they are just human. They have responsibilities and a life outside of your company. They are battling issues you don’t even know about, because they are human.

What Are the Consequences of Being an “A Player”? It’s not pretty.

  • Your “A Player” can’t sleep tonight from anxiety that they might not meet your expectations, but he or she will never complain.
  • Your “A Player” is 50 pounds overweight because their job supersedes their health, but he or she will never complain.
  • Your “A Player” is crying on their way home from work because the pressure is crushing them, but he or she will never complain.
  • Your “A Player” missed their son’s choir concert, but he or she will never complain.

And you don’t know any of this, because the job gets done, it’s extraordinary work, but he or she will never ask for feedback, and he or she will never complain.

Make sure you do not give them a reason to complain, because they won’t tell you. Send them home after providing them with extraordinary praise, with no extra work or worries. It will be the first time they have driven home with a smile on their face, knowing they did a great job at work, and now they can focus on other parts of their lives. If I’m off base, let me know. Did I hit a nerve? Let me know. I look forward to your comments.