How to turn your B players into A players

Sarah K. White

That leaves B players to fend for themselves, as they generally avoid attention from management because they aren't causing issues, but they also aren't outperforming their A player peers. They'll do what they're told, follow up on commitments and meet deadlines without causing an issue or wowing anyone in the process. They aren't instigating problems or creating a toxic work environment, but they also aren't making waves in the corporate world.

"With more time spent developing those B Players, there's more potential that they can become A players. A players are going to be A players no matter what, and C players need to exit the organization. The best place they can spend their time is with the B players," says Gimbel.

Middle managers can easily shift their focus by maintaining a mindful attitude about their team. Gimbel says, "the number one thing I think companies need to do is they need to stack rank their employees." By evaluating where each employee currently stands, and where you think they could be, managers can use it as fuel to encourage employees, rather than discourage them.

Turning B players into A players

Gimbel doesn't recommend an old-fashioned ranking system where the lowest people get cut, but rather to maintain an ongoing awareness of where your employees currently stand and the potential you see in each of them. Using this ranking strategy, middle managers can encourage employees to step up their game and become A players by emphasizing their strengths and improving on their weaknesses. Whether it's spending time with B players in the office, taking them to lunch, sending them to conferences or training sessions, managers need to make sure they are putting their energy into these overlooked employees. Essentially, all that time wasted on A, C and D players could be more effectively used on neglected B players.

It's also important to avoid looking at B players as a "steady-eddy," says Gimbel. Just because you think an employee won't leave your company, whether it's out of a perceived lack of ambition or motivation, certainly isn't a reason to gloss over them. Try not to make gross assumptions about B employees, because without spending time with them, you won't actually know what they want out of their careers, and they could just up and leave for what they see as a better opportunity, leaving you blindsided.

"[Managers] begin to intuitively put people where they believe they are, whether the numbers merit it or not. So what happens, is if you spend more time with your B players, you may see you have a diamond in the rough. When you spend time with them, you get a couple of those people who turn into A's and that can really move the needle on your organization," says Gimbel.

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