Not Everyone is (or Can Be) an A-Level Player

“The truth is, these are not very bright guys.” – Deep Throat, from All The President’s Men

Let’s think about talent.

Let’s fire all the poor teachers.
Let’s hire only the “A” players.
Let’s practice differentiation with a vengeance.
Let’s get rid of all the less-than-sterling workers.

That seems to be the philosophy of many…

Consider these two excerpts from The Law-School Scam by Paul Campos. The article is about the problem of for-profit law schools and the debt incurred by the students who will most likely never be A-level lawyers. Notice especially the word “underqualified.”

This world is one in which schools accredited by the American Bar Association admit large numbers of severely underqualified students; these students in turn take out hundreds of millions of dollars in loans annually, much of which they will never be able to repay. Eventually, federal taxpayers will be stuck with the tab, even as the schools themselves continue to reap enormous profits.

The arrangement bears a notable resemblance to the subprime-mortgage-lending industry of a decade ago, with private equity playing the role of the investment banks, underqualified law students serving as the equivalent of overleveraged home buyers, and the American Bar Association standing in for the feckless ratings agencies.

News flash: many jobs are filled by folks who are not the very best qualified to do the job. And they never will be.

Finding: research indicates that some people are born to sell – or at least raised that way. (from a Sales and Marketing article in March/April, 2014).

Sales training does not work for everyone. Leadership development has not developed enough leaders. Not all students are “A” students. (That is absolutely correct… I teach at the Community College level.)

One reason: the best trainer, mentor, or teacher needs a student or learner who has been raised to learn, nurtured to learn, and has developed that inner motivation to learn. (In education, it really does not make sense to punish good teachers who work with students so unready to learn).

I love to read about talent acquisition and talent development. But, open your eyes and pay even the slightest amount of attention. You’ll realize that not every one is an A-level player. That’s why making the perfect hire is such a rare find.

And so, we see companies, which are not able to recruit and retain “A” players, lose out to those which can.

Question: You are a great computer code writer. You are a great design system thinker. A true A-level player. Would you rather work for Apple, or a Silicon Valley start-up, and cash in on your millions/billions; or would you like to work for government pay designing the latest government website? Who do you think has more of the A-level players in their interested talent pool? …And then we all complain that the website doesn’t work well enough or fast enough.

It seems to me that our very best A-level players need to put their best efforts into designing systems that help the less-than-A-level players be competent enough to get the job done.

Not all teachers are A-level teachers.
Not all leaders are A-level leaders.
Not all football players are Super Bowl-winning, A-level players.
Not all coaches are A-level coaches.

I help people know the best ideas from business books. Of course, I wish that everyone read every good business book. (By the way, not all business books are A-level books, written by A-level authors, with A-level ideas). And then I wish that all people learned all the important lessons, and put them into practice.

Guess what? They won’t. They don’t, and they won’t…

(And by the way, not all book readers are A-level book readers).

So let’s all aim to get better. Let’s all help everyone get better. Let’s help people up their game.

But don’t think there are truly enough A-level players to go around to every job that needs them. There aren’t… and there never will be.

Randy Mayeux


Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

5 responses

  1. Randy,
    I really like the way this is laid out. A former mentor once told me “Charles, you may be a big fish in the Katy (suburb of Houston) pond, but once you hit the Houston city limits, you become one of “many” big fishes. Don’t forget that!”

    He was trying to tell me to understand my role and place and to use your words A-level in Katy, might not be A-level work in Houston!

    1. Very true, Charles.

      Being an “A” player, especially in local government, is sometimes very relative to where you are!

  2. This is really making me scratch my head. I don’t believe that it requires A-level coaching of an A-level team of A-level players to be the best. I defer to Knute Rockney’s statement of “playing not my eleven best but my best eleven.”
    In local government I believe that we can do the same. Get the best we can recruit but make sure they fit our team. Without a good fit, A-level talent can be destructive beyond imagination.
    Go Cowboys!

    1. Great insight, Mark.

      This post was not to say that it’s impossible to have a good team if they aren’t all “A” players. The point was to not expect everyone to be “A” players.

      You can certainly still coach members to make them the best they can be.

      “So let’s all aim to get better. Let’s all help everyone get better. Let’s help people up their game.”

      Thanks for your comment!

      1. Agreed! Hence the reason I read the16percent regularly. Thanks

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