What Do You Do With C-Player Talent

One of the goals of every business is to build a team of A players – a group of top-performing employees with excellent work ethic, a drive to learn and grow, and a commitment to the success of the company.

Unfortunately, they can’t all be winners. Some team members will be the B or even the C players. They’re competent in their roles, but they don’t go above and beyond like your A players.

You can’t force someone to try harder, learn more, or do more for a company, but you can guide your C players to improve their skill set and work ethic.

The Topgrading Model

According to Topgrading by renowned business manager Bradford Smart, the Topgrading model categorizes employees as A, B, or C players based on performance, attitude, behavior, and contribution. In this model, the A players are your stars while the C players are underachievers.

  • A Players: They have a mastery of their job, take initiative, lead peers, set the pace for the organization, and show consistently above-average results
  • B Players: These are solid employees and performers that support the organization’s initiatives and add value, consistently accomplish goals, and go the extra mile some of the time
  • C Players: These are the inconsistent or unacceptable performers that are often incomplete on assignments, late, lacking in initiative, or always making excuses

Overall, the majority of most organizations’ teams are going to be B players. The A players represent the small top percentage, while the C players are under a quarter.

How to Motivate C Players

Some C players are only C players because they haven’t been given the right combination of opportunity, sales coaching, and motivation. Here’s how to motivate C players to perform:

  • Identify their unique motivators: Different performers have different motivators. Use coaching assessments to uncover motivational factors and reward them based on what matters. You may see a big difference.
  • Set goals: A C player that’s motivated to become an A player may benefit from goals. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) goals give them something to strive for. With each small win, you’re building confidence and motivation in your employees, but it’s important to provide the right coaching and resources to help them reach their goals.
  • Determine if the role is the right fit: Sometimes, a C player is only a C player because they’ve outgrown the role or it isn’t the best fit. Consider if your employee has learned new skills and may be excelling in something that indicates they’d be better in a different role.
  • Use a self-assessment: C players should be able to accurately self-assess to determine their own strengths and weaknesses. If you give them an opportunity to see where they could improve in leadership, skill, motivation, or work ethic, you can help them improve.
  • Reward good behavior: When the C player starts to make positive behavioral changes, make sure to reward them. In most cases, it will inspire your employee to consistently perform better and keep getting recognition.

What to Do About the C Players

Managers spend a lot of time working with C players to try to get them to perform better and reach the company average. Often, this comes at the expense of spending time with the more productive members of the team.

A C player doesn’t mean all hope is lost. There could be many reasons they’re not performing at their best, including your company. It’s possible that it isn’t a good fit and the C player would perform better elsewhere.

There’s only so much you can do to motivate or develop an employee – any employee – and you need to know when to draw the line. If you’ve given the C player a fair opportunity to learn and bring new skills to the role, and it doesn’t help, it may be time to let go and allow the C player to flourish in another position with another company.

Build a Team of A Players

Every company has a combination of A, B, and C players. Sometimes, all a C player needs is some attention and motivation to reach their potential and become a B – or even an A – player. Put some effort in, and if you don’t see results, consider whether the C player (and your attention) is better served elsewhere.

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