being an ‘A’ player in a ‘B’ player world

The field is crowded, that is, in the world of average players. So crowded, that it is difficult to nudge your way to the front of the line. With the decline of many American corporations – both seasoned and emerging and the loss of jobs for millions, one can only wonder who is next.

As a consultant who works in many companies and across several industries, I have the enviable position of being an “observer”. It is this position and the ability to see patterns and trends across various workplaces that has allowed me to observe and summarize the 7 key characteristics of being an ‘A’ Player. An ‘A’ Player is an employee who clearly stands out above the rest. It is someone whom others point to as a role model in the workplace. It is someone who is sought after for input and problem solving. It is someone looked to as a voice of reason when all around is going awry. Of course, being an ‘A’ Player does not make you “recession proof”, but it certainly puts you in the position to “turn off the light” when all have left the building and use your attributes to pick yourself up, dust off and bounce back some place else.

So what makes for an ‘A’ Player? The 7 characteristics are attributes and skills that can be cultivated. They are often overlooked and undervalued in good times and become indispensable in lean times. However, when you have these characteristics, they enable you to outperform, outlast and be outstanding in your space.


  1. Positive outlook & disposition – while the “can do” attitude has become a cliché, ‘A’ Players have a consistently positive leaning. In the midst of gloom and doom, they are able to instill hope while acknowledging reality. They have a certain resilience that is at the core of who they are.
  2. Versatility – ‘A’ Players cultivate an ability to take on roles and responsibilities beyond what they were hired to do. They are comfortable stepping outside traditional lines and comfort zones and volunteer for needs beyond job descriptions.
  3. Adaptability – there is nothing more certain in uncertain times than the ability to change – change course, change oneself, change what is. ‘A’ Players demonstrate a higher than usual ability to move, morph and maneuver as required.
  4. Reliability – if this were a commodity and could be sold, it would enable you to dominate the marketplace. Reliability these days is rare and ‘A’ Players are consistently reliable – not just when there is something to be gained. They keep their word, they follow through and are counted on when others have over promised and under delivered.
  5. Wholistic – while this word has traditionally been applied to those in the field of natural therapies, an ‘A’ Player is one who has the ability to look at the “whole” and for the good of the “whole” when making decisions or putting forth solutions.
  6. Interdependent – we live in connected systems and the sooner we recognize that, the better off we will be. ‘A’ Players have learned how to play well with others within the system. They understand the concept of the “third thought” – that our collective wisdom produces the best results and are willing to work towards synergized solutions.
  7. Relevant – ‘A’ Players are lifelong learners. They invest in themselves when companies have failed to invest in them. They continue to increase their knowledge and skills and use these to bring forth value-added solutions to their workplaces. They have developed a strong voice and a “thinking heart” and have mastered the use of both.

Given the characteristics of ‘A’ Players, one might be left wondering what ‘B’ Players look like. If normal distribution curves also known as the Bell Curve hold true, those ‘B’ Players towards the upper end of the Bell Curve are ‘A’ Players in the making. They possess many of the ‘A’ Player characteristics, but need to work on consistency. Those ‘B’ Players who reside on the lower end of the Bell Curve are dangerously close to becoming ‘C’ Players or irrelevant over time unless faced with a large dose of reality.

So what do ‘C’ Players look like? They are easy to spot. Some of their behaviors are as follows:

  1. Defensive when asked to explain.
  2. Blame others for shortcomings.
  3. Protective of their own turf; holding things close to the chest.
  4. Make excuses for not achieving results and only do what is necessary.
  5. Consistently find reasons for why something will not work.
  6. Have stagnated in their personal and professional growth.
  7. Ironically, they believe they know it best and are adding value.

No one is perfect. The very fact that we are humans is evidence that we are “flawed.” In my experience as an individual contributor, team member and now, consultant, what I have come to know for sure is that being an ‘A’ Player is absolutely possible. In fact, it is necessary to your survival. When Darwin came up with his theory of evolution and “survival of the fittest” he wasn’t exactly referring to the 7 characteristics of ‘A’ Players. But when put in the context of the 21st century and a world that is faced with the possibility of wipeout, we look to those ‘A’ Players to carry us forward. A bit dramatic, perhaps… but relevant, nonetheless.
Be an ‘A’ Player!

Crafted by Beroz Ferrell, Partner/Consultant with The Point, LLC, who is on a relentless pursuit to inspire greatness.