Great employees are as easy as A, B, C

Great employees are as easy as A, B, C

As smart owner, you try to build a good team. How do you keep A players? What makes a good B player tick? When should you get rid of C players?


I grew up in northern Minnesota so I ended up playing my share of hockey. I tried out for many teams along the way and sometimes I made the “A” team and sometimes I didn’t.

Your business is no different. Not everybody is skilled enough to be on the A team. Though you try hard to prevent it, (look for future blog posts on how to prevent it) sometimes employees are mis-hires and should be terminated after it is clear that expectations are not being met. Other times, a new hire that seems like an A player turns out to be a solid B. As a former coach, I can tell you that a group of solid Bs not only accomplish great things, but they put the A players in position for amazing things.

If you are clear, consistent and fair about your expectations, don’t be afraid to set a high bar for employee performance. Those who are not able to reach to bar should go in search of another team where their skills might be a better fit.

Nothing kills an A player’s morale quicker than realizing they  have to suffer with C performance from the team because the owner is afraid to confront the issue head on. As the old saying goes, “Denial is not a river in Egypt!” Terminating someone has to be done with professionalism and compassion — but it has to be done. Otherwise, expect to see your company fill with Cs.

Often times in working with troubled companies I notice that the A players left long ago and the only people left are the Cs that don’t really have any other options. But as the leaders of the team, owners have no one to blame but themselves.



A players know they are A players. Saddle them down with C players and you can expect them to go free agent. Create and post clear benchmarks for expectations and then measure and post results. A players love this while C players will try to subvert the system or leave on their own.

B players are the glue of your team. They don’t generally like to be out front (unless they think they’re an A). Create and post roles and responsibilities so the Bs know what’s expected of them. They will get it done. Bs love to be recognized as part of the team that did the right things.

C players should be terminated (with professionalism) as soon as you think they are not A or B players. Don’t drag down your team. Make room for another B or A to come onboard.



“On what high-performing companies should be striving to create: a great place for great people to do great work.”
Marilyn Carlson, former CEO of Carlson Companies


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About the Author

Eric Gustafson delivers results. Over the past two decades, Eric has quietly become a go-to authority for helping owners to elevate their small businesses in the Twin Cities… Read full bio >

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