Episode 188: How to Hire A Players, with Stephen Woessner.
Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and host of the Onward Nation podcast. He is the author of two bestselling books, speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.
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Good Morning Onward Nation — how can this be episode 188 already? My goodness. The time has really flown by. So before I jump into the lesson — the purpose behind today’s solocast — I want to say some brief words of thanks. What an honor it has been to be able to be here with you five days a week — for what is now 188 episodes.
I am grateful to you, Onward Nation for listening — for sharing all of your feedback — all of which has pushed us to do an even better job with each and every episode. And thank you to all of our extraordinary guests — for what our podcast — this community of Onward Nation — has become.
Sometimes, I do feel like I need to pinch myself in the morning when I get ready to do an interview or I read my email — Facebook — the kind words on Twitter — or a post on LinkedIn.
Thank you, Onward Nation — you help my team and I get better every day. I so appreciate your review and critique — good or bad — more than you will ever know. So thank you for sharing your time with me this morning.
I also grateful for my amazing team of A Players who make up Predictive ROI — they are the ones who are responsible for every Onward Nation episode day in and day out — since the beginning. So thank you, Katherine, thank you, Louie, thank you, Erik, thank you, Alex, thank you, Matt, and thank you, Christine. I appreciate all of your hard work more than you will ever know.
Being surrounded by my team of super committed A Players who want our business to succeed as much as I do is a wonderful feeling. But building a team of A Players didn’t happen by accident.
A Players, Onward Nation, are going to be our focus this morning — but more specifically — how to attract, recruit, hire, and lead a team of A Players. I am also going to include several lessons that will help you avoid expensive hiring mistakes and then provide you with a recipe for attracting, recruiting, and hiring A Players into your business to make it a fast growth, high performing company — or Gazelles, as Verne Harnish, co-founder of Gazelles Growth Institute would describe them as.
I am going to share with you lessons I have learned during the last 23 years of working in a variety of companies, owning five businesses, and even spending six years as a full-time academic staff member at the University of Wisconsin — at the La Crosse campus.
I will also blend in some of the most valuable lessons and expertise shared by a few of our Onward Nation guests — including one of my most influential mentors, Darren Hardy. All of these lessons — these ingredients, Onward Nation — shaped the recruiting and hiring recipes we use at Predictive ROI to grow slowly — intentionally — and to build a team that only consists of A Players.
Does that mean that we have never made a hiring mistake? Good grief — I wish that was the case. We definitely have those stories, too. But all in all — our track record has been good because we have applied the lessons that I am going to share with you this morning.
One last thing before we jump in — as a free companion to today’s solocast — I encourage you to go to OnwardNation.com/12download and get your copy of our free eBook, The 12 Success Strategies of Today’s Top Business Owners. It is a distillation of the best lessons we have learned from our guests and I will refer to one of those lessons during today’s discussion.
Let’s start off with a definition to establish some common ground. What makes an A Player…an A Player?
In my opinion, A Players are the team members who are not threatened by other super achievers in their midst — in fact — it is the exact opposite — the more super achievers the better. A Players love to learn — they seek out new challenges to push themselves mentally and want to be intellectually pushed by their peers.
A Players are also the team members who have high emotional intelligence — you will not typically find them caught up in unproductive conversations or at the center of some sort of office controversy.
Instead, you will find them off solving mission critical problems — or vital priorities — by filling their vital functions — and delivering on their vital metrics — while proactivity reporting back to you when the priorities are accomplished. That’s an A Player, Onward Nation. And I am proud to say that Predictive ROI is packed full of them.
Lori Highby, two-time guest of Onward Nation recently said to me, “Stephen, I think an A Player is someone who is passionate about the work being done, someone who never stops learning, and someone who is driven towards to success.” Couldn’t agree more with Lori.
The passion Lori describes is essential because — look — work is hard — it is demanding — the hours are long — and sometimes the schedule is unforgiving. And if your team members don’t have a passion for the work, and they don’t really love it, or they don’t love you and what you stand for — they will not stay for very long — or if they do stay — you will not be getting their A level work. And A Players will not tolerate that type of situation for long — they want to work with other A Players so the passion you so loved having in your company — will also be the same passion that pushes them to move on to a different venture. And perhaps that new venture might also provide a path for continual learning.
A Players want to be challenged by conferences, by seminars, by workshops, by other forums where they can meet their fellow A Player peers and be challenged in a fast-paced, compressed, learning environment. And when the education component is provided to an A Player — it becomes easier for them to see how the time they are investing into your company, Onward Nation — is contributing to their long-term success.
Don Yaeger, also a two-time guest at Onward Nation, described an A Player to me as someone who wants to work with other A Players — but — and this is an important distinction that I had never heard before Don shared it with me, Onward Nation — Don shared with me that A Players don’t frighten other A Players.
A Players are not intimidated by other A Players — INSTEAD — they are energized by the possibilities — they are energized by the professional competition — by the ambitious drive to make each other better. Not to beat out the other person but in making each other better so the collective team is better, stronger, as a result. Oh, AWESOME!!!
Steve Jobs famously said, “A Players hire A Players and B Players hire C Players. We only want A Players here at Apple.” I think he was really right with this.
Can you think of a couple of A Players on your team who are doing that right now for you, Onward Nation — or — can you think of a time when you and a fellow A Player professionally competed with one another?
Where you cheered each other on — you celebrated each other’s wins — you helped each other through the losses — and in the process — you made each other better. That was an awesome feeling, wasn’t it? Why not create it again inside your own company — if you’re not currently experiencing it.
And then Shane Stott — another a two-time guest on Onward Nation — got really specific with me and shared what he believes are four “qualifiers” that A Players fill…think of them as pre-requisites — if you can’t put a checkbox next to each of these when thinking about a particular person — they are likely not an A Player.
First — they manage themselves better than you could. A Players do not need you looking over their shoulders or micromanaging their work. In fact, that type of managerial style is the perfect recipe for pushing A Players out of your company. Instead — define your expectations — provide the resources — and then get the heck out of the way of your A Players. They will move heaven and earth to exceed your highest expectations!
Second — A Players bring new ideas and direction continuously. A Players tend to be idea and solution machines. They are looking for new ways to challenge the status quo — to push — to move mountains.
They are proactive, Onward Nation…love that word…it is my favorite in the English language…and it is so easy to spot on an A Player!
Third — A Players are an active study themselves — meaning — they are always learning like we discussed earlier. So, Onward Nation — you need to create an education plan — some structure — so they know where and when you will be providing educational opportunities. If you don’t — they may misunderstand your lack of specific direction or leadership in this area to be ambivalence — and then your A Players will be polishing up their resumes.
And Fourth — they don’t take things personally. A Players recognize the mission and purpose of what they are working on is bigger than them — there is no ego in the work — and consequently, when something fails, or an idea doesn’t work — they don’t take it personally and their confidence is shattered in the process.
That doesn’t happen with A Players. Each win or each loss is simply a series of data points from which many things can be learned — and applied — so that future work is enhanced and better as a result.
So there you have it, Onward Nation — a complete and thorough description of A Players — a detailed avatar if you will of the elusive team members you want to hire. And as Jim Collins, author of Good to Great famously said, “The single most important thing you need to do is pick the right people and keep them. There is nothing more important than this.”
So the next step in today’s solocast that I wanted to share with you was a specific recipe for attracting and hiring A Players. How do we do this? I will give you a hint to the recipe…Jim Rohn said, “If you want to be a leader who attracts quality people, the key is to become a quality person.”
I learned this recipe directly from my personal mentorship sessions with Darren Hardy. This recipe — although potentially painful — will help you fill your team with A Players so your business is filled up — wall-to-wall — with exceptional talent.
A Player Recipe
Ingredient #1: Get out a white sheet of paper.
Ingredient #2: Brainstorm a list of 50 attributes you want to have your employees — or future employees — exemplify — to demonstrate to your customers on daily basis. Just write fast as you can. Go total stream of consciousness. Quickly make the list — fast, fast, fast. Make a full list of 50. Okay, do you have the full list ready?
Ingredient #3: Now go back through your list and give very careful consideration so you can remove the duplicates, remove anything that might be similar, and then distil the list down into what you consider to be your Vital 12 Attributes. These 12 are the attributes your ideal team members would represent and live out every day.
Ingredient #4: Let the list rest for a day — sleep on it — then review and critique it again in the morning. Make sure your final list of 12 is ready to be shared. But don’t share the list with your team. Instead…take the 12 attributes and use them to create survey form with a rating scale of 1 to 10 — with 10 being the highest. You could use a paper-based survey, Survey Monkey, or another tool. Something that is easy to distribute and share.
Ingredient #5: Now ask your leadership team and all of your employees to anonymously rate YOU according to those 12 attributes. They do not rate themselves — but YOU, Onward Nation.
Ingredient #6: Sit down and review the data. The survey results represent how you — as the leader — need to improve in order to attract, recruit, hire, and effectively lead A Players representing your Vital 12 Attributes. This exercise — and your ability to authentically recruit A Players who match the 12 — requires you to be there yourself.
Remember — you, Onward Nation — you — you are the ones who set the pace within your company. The leader sets the pace — the pace of the leader sets the pace of the pack. It is an incontrovertible fact. You can try to run from it — to hide from it — but in the end — there it is.
Therefore, if you want to attract and hire A Players who represent those 12 attributes — you need to become the living embodiment of those 12 — if you are not already.
So with that…I want to thank you again for taking the time to be here with me today. It is an honor to have you here — thank you for tuning in — I am delighted you chose this episode to be what you listen to, study, and take with you on your morning run, or maybe Onward Nation has become part of your daily commute, or in some other way has become part of your morning routine.
However our daily podcast fits into your daily routine — I want you to know how much I appreciate you sharing some of your invaluable 86,400 seconds you have in your day with me and the strategies we learn and share each day from today’s top business owners.
And please continue to let me know what you think of Onward Nation…good or bad…I always want your feedback. My direct email address is firstname.lastname@example.org — and yes — that is my actual Inbox. No fancy filters or filing system and I read and reply to every single email.
So please let me know how you think we are doing. I look forward to hearing from you.
We will be back tomorrow with an incredible interview with Diane Gardner — she is a tax savings superhero and she shares some insights into how she saved one of her business owner clients $50,000 in taxes. You will not want to miss this discussion — stop overpaying taxes, Onward Nation!
Until then, onward with gusto!