Yes, Teams Still Matter in the Era of “A” Players

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May 31, 2010

Have you heard the latest human resources guru tell you how you’re going to regret everything unless you hire and keep your “A” players at your company? Have you heard how all of your top performing employees are just anxious to jet out of organizations they’ve stagnated in, and that it might mean the end of your business as you know it?


This whole idea that there are entire organizations made up of “A” players is grade “A” bull. Anyone who is half honest with themselves knows it.

So why do we keep talking about “A” players when there are plenty of “B” and “C” players in highly successful organizations?

Blame LeBron James.

LeBron James, the reigning Most Valuable Player in the NBA, is one of the most talented players in the history of the NBA, is going to be a gun for hire this summer, and nobody can shut up about it. Which team will he ultimately sign with? How much money is he going to make in endorsements? What location is most appealing?

Lost in all of the hoopla is a disturbing fact that is rarely mentioned: James has been the most talented player on the Cleveland Cavaliers surrounded by other very talented players (including all-stars) and has still failed to win a championship.

So how does plugging him into the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets or Los Angeles Clippers (perennial losers this year with awful teams) change that dynamic? What would be so different about that?

These teams are focusing on the “A” player and not on the team. And my guess is that isn’t what gets James a ring.

What he will need is solid leadership, a complimentary set of players around him, consistent offensive schemes that play to his natural advantages and a defensive package that fits the rest of their team.

That’s a lot more than simply landing the top player in the league.

When you focus all of your resources on getting only a top performer, you lose sight of other behaviors that impact your organization. Yes, getting the best candidate in your industry will help, but when you see a team without the top talent in the league knock out the one that does have the best player, you’ve got to notice something.

There’s more to staffing than just finding the top players.