A Different Take On Team Composition

Previously I wrote that you should make sure that your team is comprised only of A and B players. While I still believe in that post, I recently came across a fantastic answer on Quora that details what I think are the differences between A, B, C, and D team players.

Michael O. Church writes,

The best employees are multipliers who make others more productive, and next are the adders (workhorses). Subtracters are the good-faith incompetents who cost more than they bring. Dividers are the worst kind of problem employee: they bring the whole team (or company) down.

Merging that in with my previous post, and you get:

  • A players = multipliers
  • B players = adders
  • C players = subtracters
  • D players = dividers

I’d like to add my interpretation to what Michael wrote, and say that you must only have A players in management precisely because one the jobs of management is to make your team more productive. Now that does not mean that team members shouldn’t include A players, or that all A players are potential management candidates. Sometimes your best employees are just that – your best employees. Figure out their needs, and reward them accordingly, but keep them as A players right where you need them. They will be the multipliers to the B players of your team.

The B players – the adders of your team, do the bulk of the work and add measurable value in everything that they do. Keep them happy, and they will continue to perform for you for many years. But keep an eye on them, and encourage the most capable ones to become A players, but never promote a B player into management.

The C players – the subtracters are the ones who do not produce enough to warrant long-term employment, but are usually capable of improvement to the B player level. Put them on a performance improvement plan, but do so in good faith that they become B players. You usually can afford to carry a C player for awhile, just not forever.

The D players – the dividers are caustic to your team. Whether intentional or not, they eat away at the fabric of your team and undermine your goals and objectives. Dismiss them forthwith. Work with HR to package them out properly. There is no hope for improvement with D players.