As organizational leaders, it is vital that we recognize the contributions of all employees and unlocking their potential. While A players often receive the most attention, B players are equally essential to an organization's success. Unfortunately, B players are often overlooked and may not receive the same level of attention or recognition from their managers.
In this article, I will discuss the importance of B players and provide specific examples of how managers can support their growth and development.
The Value of B Players
In most workplaces, there is a tendency to focus on the A players or the employees who perform exceptionally well. While it is important to recognize and reward top performers, it is equally essential to acknowledge the contributions of the B players.
B players are individuals who are dedicated and committed to their job, but they may not receive the same level of attention and recognition from managers as compared to their A player counterparts. However, as a manager, if you want to retain and motivate your employees, it is crucial to get to know your B players and appreciate them as unique individuals.
The first step to unlocking the hidden potential of your B players is to understand their strengths and skills. This requires reassessing their job fit and ensuring that they are in roles that draw upon their strengths. As a manager, it is essential to identify employees' talents that may not be immediately apparent, perhaps because they are quiet or reserved or do not fit your mental model of what a "leader" should look like.
It is also important to give your B players permission to lead. Unlike the A players who do not wait for permission, B players often do. However, once they know that they have your support, they can be just as effective. As a manager, it is your responsibility to provide them with the necessary support and guidance to help them develop their leadership skills and take on new challenges.
Here's a brief example that illustrates this point. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a client who had an exceptional B player on their team. This employee was a hard worker and always went above and beyond to meet the company's needs. However, he was often overlooked for promotions and leadership opportunities because he did not fit the mold of what a leader should look like.
After spending some time with this employee, I realized that he had exceptional organizational skills and was excellent at managing complex projects. I suggested to his manager that he be given the opportunity to lead a project team, and he was amazed at how well this employee excelled. The employee's confidence grew, and he began to take on more leadership responsibilities within the organization.
Common Misconceptions about B Players, and How Managers Can Overcome Them
There are some common misconceptions about B players that can hinder their growth and development. Here are some of these misconceptions and ways that managers can overcome them:
B players are not as valuable as A players: One common misconception is that B players are not as valuable as their A player counterparts. However, this is not true. B players can be just as valuable to an organization, and they often have unique skills and strengths that can contribute to the company's success. To overcome this misconception, managers should focus on recognizing and rewarding the contributions of all employees, regardless of their performance level.
B players lack motivation: Another common misconception is that B players lack motivation and are not committed to their job. However, this is not always the case. B players may be just as motivated as A players, but they may not receive the same level of attention and recognition from managers. To overcome this misconception, managers should take the time to get to know their B players and show them that their contributions are valued.
B players are not leadership material: Many managers assume that B players are not leadership material, and they overlook them for leadership opportunities. However, this is not always true. B players may have unique strengths and skills that make them effective leaders. To overcome this misconception, managers should assess their B players' leadership potential and provide them with the necessary support and guidance to help them develop their leadership skills.
Overcoming misconceptions about B players is essential to creating a more inclusive workplace and unlocking the potential of all employees. Managers should focus on recognizing and rewarding the contributions of all employees, getting to know their B players, and assessing their leadership potential to help them develop their skills. When managers invest in their B players, they help create a more diverse and talented workforce that can drive the organization's success.
Specific Ways that Managers Can Support B Players in Developing Their Skills
Here are some specific ways that managers can support B players in developing their skills:
Provide feedback: One of the best ways to support B players in developing their skills is to provide them with feedback. This feedback should be specific, timely, and actionable. Managers should focus on identifying their B player's strengths and areas for improvement and provide them with guidance on how to improve their performance.
Offer training and development opportunities: Another way managers can support their B players is by offering them training and development opportunities. This could include attending conferences, taking online courses, or participating in mentorship programs. By providing B players with these opportunities, managers can help them develop new skills and gain valuable experience.
Assign challenging projects: Managers can also support B players by assigning them challenging projects. This can help them develop new skills, gain experience, and build their confidence. Managers should focus on providing guidance and support to help their B players succeed and grow.
Provide mentorship: Another way managers can support their B players is by providing mentorship. This could involve pairing them with a more experienced colleague who can provide guidance and support. Mentorship can help B players develop their skills, gain new perspectives, and build valuable relationships.
Recognize and reward their contributions: Finally, managers can support their B players by recognizing and rewarding their contributions. This could include bonuses, promotions, or public recognition. By recognizing their B players' contributions, managers can show them that their work is valued and help them feel more motivated and engaged.
Supporting B players in developing their skills is essential to creating a more inclusive and successful workplace. Managers can support their B players by providing feedback, offering training and development opportunities, assigning challenging projects, providing mentorship, and recognizing and rewarding their contributions. By investing in their B players, managers can unlock their potential and help them grow into valuable contributors to the organization.
Balancing Assigning Challenging Projects to B Players While Also Ensuring They Don't Become Overwhelmed
Assigning challenging projects to B players can be an effective way to help them develop their skills and grow within the organization. However, it is essential to ensure that these projects are not too challenging, as this can lead to B players becoming overwhelmed and disengaged. Here are some ways managers can balance assigning challenging projects to B players while also ensuring they don't become overwhelmed:
Communicate clearly: Managers should communicate clearly with their B players about the scope and expectations of the project. This includes discussing timelines, deliverables, and any potential challenges. By communicating clearly, managers can help their B players understand what is expected of them and avoid any misunderstandings.
Provide support and guidance: Managers should provide support and guidance to their B players throughout the project. This could include providing resources, answering questions, or offering feedback. By providing support and guidance, managers can help their B players stay on track and avoid becoming overwhelmed.
Break the project into manageable tasks: Managers should break the project into manageable tasks and assign them to their B players in a structured way. This can help B players feel more in control and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the project's size and complexity.
Monitor progress: Managers should monitor their B players' progress on the project regularly. This can help them identify any potential issues or areas where additional support or guidance is needed. By monitoring progress, managers can ensure that the project stays on track and that B players do not become overwhelmed.
Balancing assigning challenging projects to B players while also ensuring they don't become overwhelmed requires clear communication, support and guidance, breaking the project into manageable tasks, monitoring progress, and providing opportunities for feedback. By following these tips, managers can help their B players develop their skills and grow within the organization without becoming overwhelmed.
B players are an essential part of any organization, and their contributions should not be overlooked. As a manager, it is crucial to get to know your B players and appreciate them as unique individuals. Reassess their job fit and identify their hidden talents. Give them permission to lead and provide them with the necessary support and guidance to help them develop their leadership skills. When managers invest in their B players, they help create a more diverse and talented workforce that can drive the organization's success. By following the tips outlined in this article, managers can support their B players' growth and development, creating a more inclusive and successful workplace.
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.