A, B, C Quick Summary

Over the past few weeks,  I’ve outlined a methodology guaranteed to drive mediocrity out of your organization from the bottom up.  Below is a quick summary. 1. Whenever you engage with this process, it is very important that you hum Michael Jackson’s “ABC” song. That really is the secret to success. 2. Introduce the process to your organization by asking Managers to read the recommended articles: “ABCs” by Bruce Hodes or “A New Game Plan for C Players” by Beth Axelrod, Helen Hadfield-Jones, and Ed Michaels. 3. In a scheduled group session with your Managers, rank your employees as an A, B or C. 4. Deal with any C Players you may have. Remember the options: Put them in a new role, coach them, or ethically and honorably move on to better options. 5. Treat your B Players as a resource. 6. Identify the A Players on your team.  A Players need plans that develop and train them so they are indeed ready to be promoted; I advise incorporating A Players as full partners in developing those plans. 7. Follow up with the Leadership group in two months to ensure that issues are actually being addressed. Watch me talk about A, B, C Players at a conference...

The Next Steps for A, B, and C Players

What’s good about CMI’s A, B, C system of ranking employees is that the issues are on the table, and managers can act accordingly. A Plan for C Players Once an employee has been identified as a C Player, there can be three resolutions: 1. He/She can be put into a new role, where his/her skill set might allow him/her to become a B Player. For example, the Engineering Manager for a company I worked with was, at best, marginal in his position. He was moved from having direct reports into being part of the sales team. Since then, company sales grew dramatically, and new customers are better cared for. With an open mind and strong knowledge of an employee’s strengths, placing an employee in a new role can greatly improve outcomes. 2. The Manager can take the employee on for development and coach him/her into becoming a B Player. At this point, the employee understands that his/her job is on the line, and the Manager clearly outlines the required behavioral changes. For the next few months, the Manager coaches and supports the employee. Turnarounds can happen. 3. It might be decided that the only alternative is to move on and replace the employee. The decision then is how to proceed in an ethical and honorable manner. A question I ask is: “Does the employee know that his or her job is on the line?” Managers often hem and haw and say they “think so” or that the employee “should know.” The standard I set is higher: “Did you say to the employee that these performance issues need to be addressed...

Defining the Players

The following is what I mean by A, B, or C Players What were you thinking? If you are a CEO or Manager with direct reports who would come up with D’s and F’s in a school grading system, I cannot help you. Tolerating employees of this quality in your company does not allow you to respond appropriately to — let alone thrive in our current business environment. These low-grade employees (and the Managers who tolerate them) are impacting the rest of your organization. Not only do low-grade employees drag down the company, but they also negatively impact your great and superstar employees. In short, if you have more than a few D and F employees, sell the firm and do something to save yourself. Your prognosis (and that of your company) is — at the very best — grim. In the next minute, you will be falling off a high cliff. Good luck and start to pray! Out with Mediocrity From now on, I’ll refer to mediocre employees as “C Players.” These employees are marginal in their performance and unremarkable in any positive attribute they bring to the workplace. They exist, take up space, and just get their jobs done, sort of. A test for “C-ness” is putting yourself in this scenario: If one of these employees came up to you and said they were quitting, would you be relieved? Would your relief be because you’re certain you could do better by recruiting a new employee from the open marketplace? If so, you have a classic C Player on your hands. Know anyone like this? Grab a piece of...

Open Assessments

The “ABC” process I’m going to tell you about is designed to give your company both a people and a performance edge. During my clients’ strategic planning meetings, I have each manager stand in front of the room. The managers are then asked to rank—one at a time—their direct reports as an A, B, or C Player.  The group has to be mature, sophisticated, and responsible enough for this type of activity. I ask managers to read several articles about the process in advance, so everyone already understands the process. Once the manager ranks employees and has explained his/her rationale, others at the table can give their views. Only those who have real work-related experience with that person state their rankings and justifications. I’ve seen very positive results from the dialogue that managers hold with the leadership team about key employees. Managers realize how others perceive their direct reports. Below the surface issues are brought to light. The team can then design actions to deal with those issues. Another disclaimer: This exercise is not about hearsay and gossip. Participants must have adult sophistication. For example, absolute confidentiality is a must. What goes on in the meeting room stays in the meeting room; all participants need to understand and honor this. To take the discussion out of context and share with anyone outside of the room is a fireable offense. Next week I’ll define what each type of player...

ABC’s Oh Baby Now

A lot of factors impact the long-term success of a business entity, and achieving success is complex. As businesspeople, we cannot control the economy, our competition, taxes, healthcare plans, or national events. However, I think we can agree that the quality of employees within an organization directly affects that organization’s performance. Even with unions, executives and managers do ultimately control who works in the company. Leveraging the “people piece” is essential to enhance a company’s performance advantage. People are one of your most important business assets. By calling people “assets,” I do not mean to objectify them — but maximizing resources is one of the responsibilities of business leadership. The “ABC” process I’m going to tell you about is designed to give your company both a people and a performance edge. An article called “A New Game Plan for C Players,” by Beth Axelrod, Helen Hadfield-Jones, and Ed Michaels helped crystallize my ideas about working with management teams. The article also reinforced solutions that I am successfully implementing with my clients — namely, improving companies by driving out mediocrity. By raising the bottom of a company, you automatically raise the top. Before we go on, let me make a disclaimer. Management’s ranking of employees is controversial. Forced ranking is something that many large, publicly traded companies do. I am not endorsing this methodology or that of Jack Welch, who supposedly advocated culling the bottom 10 percent of the GE herd each year. What I am endorsing, and heartily proposing, is that you only have truly outstanding and incredible employees in your company. Now there is a radical thought!  If...