It easy to recognise the A players in your organisation – the ones whose abilities and personalities stand out from the crowd. But you can lose out on a wealth of talent if you bypass the employees you consider B players, writes Liz Kislik for Harvard Business Review.
A professional coach for businesses of all shapes and sizes, from the Fortune 500 down to family firms, she warns that it’s unrealistic to expect to employ only high performers and extroverts. Not only that but, just because someone doesn’t naturally shine or shout their worth from the rooftops, it doesn’t mean they don’t have excellent skills to share.
If you devote some time to get to know your whole team as individuals, you will have a much better picture of what those currently identified as mid-level performers can offer and achieve. Letting them become unfulfilled and frustrated could lose valuable input into your business.
Kislik has put together a five-point strategy for uncovering the B players’ secret assets, which could be the exact skills you need to boost your business.
1) Identify the strengths of each team member. If you don’t have a good knowledge of your B players one-to-one, this is the first thing to do. Those who quietly get their tasks done but never speak up in a crowd, or those who work studiously from home unseen, can often be overlooked when it comes to leadership roles. Unlock any hidden potential by asking them about their concerns, their preferences and their ideas.
2) Check they are in the right job. Now you know their strengths, you can assess whether people are in the best place – for them and you. A manager who is floundering in a large, high-pressure department could be much happier and more effective heading up a smaller team in a creative role.
3) Watch out for your own hidden biases. Sometimes, says Kislik, we can feed an unconscious prejudice when making appointments. “Women and people of colour are often overlooked for challenging or high-status assignments,” she adds. “They’re assumed ‘not to be ready’ or they’re not considered because they don’t act like commonly held but stereotyped views of ‘leaders’.”
3) Show your belief and give support and encouragement. A B player may well have doubts about their own ability to step up to an A role. Make sure you identify, appreciate and give appropriate coaching to those who have the skills, but not the confidence to make that leap.
4) Be clear that you’re happy for them to take the lead. Demonstrate your consent for them to assume control. B players may be reticent until they have clear permission from you.
Not every employee can be a shining star. Even those who are now can lose their lustre over time. Ultimately there is much to gain from giving your B players the opportunity to step up and show what they can do.