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Building an A team

  • SIMA
- Posted: May 2, 2017

By Jon Crandall
During a conversation with my brother, who has led multiple teams in multiple locations, he asked: “Do you know the difference between an all-star employee and an average employee? They do a little bit more.” He suggested that an all-star or “A” employee will do more than expected consistently without being asked. In our industry, where finding qualified, dedicated people is often as elusive as finding a unicorn, how can you build a strong team that will position your company for growth? It’s actually not as difficult as you might think.

A team characteristics

  • They talk about work in a positive way.
  • They discuss things they or their team have been working on even when not at work.
  • They answer work emails or after-hours calls because they own what they do and don’t want things to linger or be forgotten.
  • They may be focused problem-solvers.
  • They are list or calendar driven.
  • They take notes and do not procrastinate.
  • People gravitate to them because they know that they will get it done.

When an A employee falters
If A team members represent the best employees, what could cause some of them to not succeed in your organization? Look inward.

After a few false starts in hiring some of our leadership team, I realized that those who didn’t work out didn’t necessarily represent a bad hire. It was partly due to my lack of maturity as a leader and coach. Both sides contribute to success and failure, and employees play a major part in which way it goes. However, I have found when the team or person has the right processes, systems and support, it can definitely translate to success. Coupled with a person who does just a little bit more, it can translate into a higher level of success and have an enormous impact on the business.

Formula for success
Establish a structure, process and system that complement a goal that has a 5- to 10-year planned path to success known by the entire organization. When you tie the structure and processes together with accountability, direction and reward, greatness can be achieved. In my experience, I have seen driven, highly intelligent people go from good to great when given the tools to succeed.

Leadership coach Marshall Goldsmith says: “What got you here won’t get you there.” As you grow, you will need to adapt your formula for success. We have created systems that worked phenomenally up to a certain point, and then they needed to be adapted because we outgrew the system’s capacity. Constant monitoring of these systems and processes is essential because failure can happen quickly, which can put strain on your team.

In for the long haul
Once you’ve found your A team and created systems for optimal operations, how do you keep them engaged?

Create an environment where they enjoy spending time
. Make sure the culture has commonality or the team has similar core values.

Give them the tools to win. Create systems and outfit operations with good equipment and technology. Dedicate a budget for continued training and education, including mentorship programs.

Don’t accept mediocre or less from anyone
. Hire slow…fire fast. Keeping non-producers on the team shows that you accept mediocrity.

Set the goal. Winners need a goal. Set the goal with their input, reverse engineer and reward the right outcome. Make the reward something they want. Not everyone is motivated by money. A great quick read is “The Five Love Languages” from Gary Chapman. A two-minute online test will identify your motivation. While it’s geared toward personal relationships, it can be adjusted accordingly. You can probably identify your peers’ motivations once you understand the concept.

Hold on and enjoy the ride. What I have learned over the past 20 years is that “the right people in the right seats” directly correlates to my business growth. Each time we have made an investment in a great employee - from the field up to the highest management level - the business has grown exponentially.

Jonathan Crandall is chief visionary for Crandall & Company Inc. Contact him at

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