One of the ways we quickly identify the quality of the employees in our client companies is by ranking them in categories of A, B, C and D players. Jack Welch also made some of this popular with his 20/70/10 approach in ranking people throughout General Electric during his tenure as CEO.
A Players: Great for the culture and gets great results on accountabilities and KPIs
B Players: Great for the culture but needs coaching or skill development on results for accountabilities and KPIs
C Players: Bad for the culture and gets great results on accountabilities and KPIs
D Players: Bad for the culture and needs coaching or skill development on results for accountabilities and KPIs
As a cultural goal, you want A Players in your upper 20% of employees who do well in your organization. There are probably some B and C players in there as well, although not in large representation. The idea is that C and D players are more than likely killing the organizational culture daily because the A and B players do not like working with them. They are also scratching their heads on why you continue to employ the D players who are hell to work with and are not contributing anything to the accountable results.
The C Players are getting away with their behavior because they produce results. You put up with their attitudes and bad days because they produce some desirable result for the team. More than likely, you haven’t recruited and have no one lined up to replace them or no one in the organization has a clue on how to do what they do each day. Either way, both are big leadership and manager sins committed by you.
Here are the 3 behaviors seen most frequently in C and D type players for control efforts:
1. They continuously ask questions but do nothing constructive or positive with the answers you give.
Have you had this happen? I’m sure you have because it’s a power-holding tactic used by C or D players to challenge your knowledge or expertise. They do not plan on doing anything with the answers; they are simply trying to plant the seeds of doubt in others on the team to question your authority. You can solve this issue by coaching back on this continuously to hold them accountable on follow up and follow through pertaining to what they did with the information or direction you gave.
2. They will use the phrase “I’m not sure about that” to control or delay agreement and alignment.
This is easy. Think about it, the obvious next step when you are not sure about something is to clarify, find out the answer or withhold your comment. What do you think the comment was intended to achieve?
3. They often will defend or provoke action or discussion on issues, which have very little importance, or relevance to core issues.
This is a distraction move designed to frustrate you or get you off track from the real core issues to be discussed. This often happen when you try to discuss core issues. For C Players, its discussion around their attitude or behavior, for D Players, it’s discussion around both. C and D type players will do anything to get as far away from their deficiencies in performance, whatever they might be.
4. They will often “flip the script” or use a “boomerang” on you.
C Players will attempt to flip the script on their behavior by reversing the focus from behavior to the results they are producing. They want to point to what they produced and get away from how they produced it. Both C and D Players will often boomerang you by bringing up something you did wrong or a result you may have not produced. They will both attempt to flip the script by bringing up others on the team and their deficiencies. Don’t go for the flip or be blindsided by the boomerang. Stop it down and bring it back home.
Look for these and other tactics when you are attempting to coach C and D players. If you are spending too much time on your C players, you not only deserve the results they produce but everything else that goes with it. Your D Players should not even be a question in your mind about what to do next with them. Remember, every day you continue to accept the C and D behavior is raising the risk that you will be losing your awesome A’s and B’s that have simply grown tired of your acceptance and approval of the C and D behaviors. A Players want to play with A Players, not C’s and D’s!
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