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Bring Your ‘A’ Game

A common practice in talent management is to assess the contributions of employees in a ranking system of A, B, C and so on. I’ve often said that the role of the Talent function in any organization is to get and keep the best talent: the ‘A’ players.

If our current COVID-19 economic realities have shown us anything, it’s that even good workers can find themselves without work due to the harsh reality that the work no longer is necessary. No one is completely secure in any given employment relationship. However, whenever possible, employers will go to great lengths to retain their most valuable players: those who bring their ‘A’ game every day.

So what are the A’s of the ‘A’ game?

Aptitude:  Aptitude refers to your skill, ability and desire to do the work before you. This doesn’t mean you are an expert or have mastered everything there is about your job. If you lack the skills and interest to do you your work, you will likely not be able to sustain the level of consistent quality in your performance to bring your ‘A’ game every day. You are most likely to succeed in a role in which you can demonstrate your natural skills and talent in much of the work you do.

Action:  ‘A’ players are not comfortable sitting around; they want to be in the game, not on the bench. How do you approach your work each day? Does your personal work ethic drive you to want to accomplish more, to take initiative and be diligent throughout the day? ‘A’ players do not have to be told to get to work. They want to work and demonstrate their ability to contribute.

Accountable:  When you are accountable to yourself, your employer and your team, you accept responsibility for your own choices and actions, recognizing that others are depending on you. It’s about delivering quality results for the work you are assigned, asking for help if needed, owning your mistakes, showing up on time and communicating when the unexpected changes your circumstances.

Attitude:  Unlike action and accountability, attitude is internal. ‘A’ players bring good attitudes to work. John Maxwell has been one of my favorite authors on leadership since my first job in HR. In his book, Attitude 101, Maxwell says, “Attitude is really about how a person is that overflows into how he acts.” You know it when you see it. We say someone has a bad attitude when they frequently complain about seemingly everything. Maybe their words are discouraging and overly critical.

Another reality about attitude is that it influences those around you. Maxwell also addresses this: “Several things on a team are not contagious: talent, experience, and willingness to practice. But you can be sure of one thing: Attitude is catching. When someone on the team is teachable and his humility is rewarded by improvement, others are more likely to display similar characteristics.” Bringing a positive attitude to your work not only helps you to be an ‘A’ player, it creates more opportunities for you to be on an ‘A’ team.

Affable:  The word affable is not one we often hear. Affable means to be personable, pleasant and friendly in how you interact with others. For all of you introverts, don’t overreact here; this is not about being the life of the party and chatting with everyone all day. After all, we are working! Being affable leads to being someone others want to work with. We spend so much of our lives at work, what can you do to make it better for the people around you? Even brief, pleasant interactions can go a long way. Look for ways to help others and compliment someone when they do a good job!

Appreciative:  A lot has been written in recent years about gratitude. You might wonder what being appreciative has to do with being an ‘A’ player. From my perspective, the most successful people in life are grateful. Feeling and showing appreciation for opportunities, for the people in our lives, for the kindness of others, for all the good things you experience, contributes to feelings of well-being and improved emotional health. What are the things you gain from your employment relationship that you truly appreciate? Maybe it’s as simple as a paycheck and benefits. How about a great wellness program, or the opportunity to learn, or working with great people?

I encourage you to think about these ‘A’ traits, how they affect your work, and challenge yourself to apply them. You may be surprised at how they can help you improve your ‘A’ game.