We all say we want them. What are they?

The term is tossed about casually in talent discussions. “She’s an “A” player.” “We need more “A” players around here.”

Have you ever stopped to think about what that designation means? How do you know one when you see one? Is it as simple as someone who gets things done? The answer is, it depends. “A” players are situational. Further, not every role demands an “A” player. I have seen struggling executives leave an enterprise and regain “A” player status in a new environment. This underscores the situational aspect of competence and is precisely why you should not procrastinate when a leader needs to be removed. You are keeping them from their destiny. Further, if the struggling individual resides in a role that requires an “A” player, you are hurting your business. I have also seen “A” players in roles that don’t call for superior competence and leadership. These folks will ultimately find the door, on their way to a more fulfilling opportunity.

Roles that require top talent are typically defined as mission critical. Look at your organizational chart with your current strategic initiatives in mind. Who is directly aligned with the execution of strategic imperatives? You might be surprised how easy it is to identify the mission critical roles. Be ruthless about putting “A” players in these jobs.

Since “A” players are situational, you, as a leader, will want to develop a customized scorecard that fits your business and environment. Break the scorecard down into competencies, leadership traits, personal attributes. List specific dimensions under each of the three categories. Create a 1-3 scoring scheme for each dimension. The result will be directionally accurate and will help you determine if someone can be developed or if an upgrade is necessary. The scorecard works for senior leadership roles and expert roles. Make it part of your talent managment system. You won’t regret it.