How to become an “A” Player

Most of us think we’re good drivers. Spend any time on the highway and you’ll see this just can’t be true. Is being an “A” Player kinda like that? 

Are you an “A” Player? How do you know? If you want to become one here’s how…

The definition of an “A” Player

An “A” Player by definition is someone who is in the top 10% in their field. 90% or higher on your math test is usually considered an “A.” Same in life. 

There are 203,000 CEOs in the U.S. Is your CEO in the top 10%?

There are roughly 1.57M sales reps in the U.S. If you’re in sales, can you get in the top 157,000? I think so. What field are you in? Think you are in the top 10%?

Here are four steps on how to do it. 

Four steps to becoming an “A” Player

Step 1: Develop a scorecard

In sales, this is typically a quota. But what if you aren’t in sales? A scorecard helps make the subjective, objective. Important to mention, a scorecard isn’t a job description. It’s outcome-based. A scorecard states what you are going to achieve, complete or execute and by when. 

The best scorecards are written in the format of “I will achieve these initiatives by X date defined by Y criteria”. Think  “From X to Y by Z.” Develop a scorecard of priorities with your manager and now you have a clear measuring stick. 

Being an “A” Player means delivering undisputed results. Agree to the priorities, the timelines and go get it done. 

Step 2: Solve a problem

Being an “A” player means standing out. The best way to stand out is to solve a problem – something that’s slightly outside your normal job responsibilities and expectations. Curious about standing out? Check out this post: How to stand out at work. 

If nothing comes to mind – I’ll give you a hint. The best problems to solve are the ones your boss has. What is your manager struggling with that he/she doesn’t have time to prioritize?

I asked this question to a hungry sales rep a few months ago. I just caught up with him around the holidays. Here’s what he said: 

“I asked my boss if I could help him organize the inbound lead process with marketing. I knew it was causing our team a lot of headaches so I raised my hand and proactively offered to help fix it. Now he loves me. He even told his boss the good work I was doing and that guy took me to lunch.”

Want a two for one? Write this into your scorecard. 

Step 3: Build Relationships

The value of being an “A” Player is not being able to say you’re an “A” Player. That’s cocky. 

Sure, you want to know if you’re one, that’s confidence. The real value is for other people to say you’re an “A” player…especially when you’re not around. 

One time I got promoted without ever applying for a role or even knowing it existed. An executive from another part of the company called me up and asked if I wanted a critical role they were creating. 

Why did he do it? Because I was crushing Steps 1 & 2. I was delivering results in my core job and I had solved a problem outside of my immediate role that got me noticed. 

But here’s the kicker…

Before he called me, he called my boss. And he called two other senior executives in the business to ask about me. 

Know what they said? “He’s an A-Player.” 

Being an “A” player means building relationships across your company – not just your team. Many of today’s companies are matrix organizations – which means leaders always need help from other parts of the business. That’s where you come in. 

Being an “A” player isn’t about who you know. It’s about who knows you. 

Step 4: Ask for help

This might seem counterintuitive, but if you want to be an “A” Player you need to ask for help. Not just from anyone, but from the people in your role already performing at a high level. Note: this necessarily doesn’t have to be someone in your company either. Might even be better if you go outside. 

You’d be surprised how often fellow “A” Players will lend a hand. (That’s what makes them “A” Players)

When I stepped into my first sales role as an outside rep in Columbus I asked my manager if I could spend a few days with the top rep based in St. Louis. For two days we drove around. I asked him a million questions, we ate some great BBQ, I took a ton of notes and I sat quietly through his customer appointments. 

On our way back to the airport he said “man I’m shocked no one else has asked to do this. I had a great time. I really wish I would have done this when I was first starting out like you.” 

Being an “A” Player means helping others to become “A” Players.

So, now that you know the critical steps to become an “A” Player, are you sure you want to?

Why you want to become an “A” Player

Becoming an “A” Player means maximizing your potential. I believe we’re most fulfilled when we’re pushing the boundary of what we think we can do. 

I think you can become an “A” Player. Do you?

Published by brianhquinn

I write a weekly post to help you grow professionally, elevate your career and Become an "A" Player.