Eric Paley’s Curve of Talent is a brutal must-read. I’ve remixed it a bit to come up with the following definitions; the word’s are Eric’s, I’ve just re-ordered them:

F performers are not at all productive.

C performers struggle to competently fill their role, but are somewhat productive with sufficient coaching. Hard to admit, but most people in the business world don’t have a particularly clear idea on how to do their job well. Startups need to help C players transition out of the organization.

B players understand their objectives well and deliver them competently with minimum coaching. Coach B players on the need to not just competently deliver their function, but drive toward innovation within that function.

A players write the book and not just read it. They not only have a clear idea how to competently accomplish their functional objectives, but actually lead the organization to innovate and be world class within their functional area. They raise the bar on the entire organization. One way these candidates can be identified during an interview is when they actually teach the interviewer something about how the company can win.

Topics Recruiting

4 comments · Show

  • Mike Faherty

    This is a healthy reminder to not make excuses for your team. Either they will help the venture succeed and meet it’s potential or they will distract and slow the process down. I have been fortunate to have some A Players and even some F Players. How to handle these types is easy… it is the troublesome B and C Players that as leaders we waist the most time with. The line between B and C can get blurry and we can be persuaded to spend time coaching a C that you thought was a B. That always hurts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Asher Bond

    I thought I was an A player until I went to work for a startup in 1995, then I realized I was a B player. I didn’t really become an A player until after spending a few years at my own startup and writing the book.

  • Asher Bond

    I think the reason why this is is that employees need to attain value consciousness. The best way for an employee to go from B to A is to employ oneself and pay attention to the input/output relationship to learn value.

  • Vic Mahillon

    It’s amazing how so many people claim to be A players but the truth is this is a tremendously rare breed. It’s hard enough to find people who do their jobs well. These people are automatically B players at minimum. However, finding people who understand the status quo, but regularly have new visions to make it better, faster, stronger are legitimate A players. These are the types of people needed in dynamic start-ups. As a recruiter at OpenView Venture Partners, I’m always on the hunt for A talent and it definitely isn’t easy. However, these are the types of people who are absolutely essential to push a promising company forward. Great post – keep them coming!