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About Greatness and the true A-people

A-people hire A-people and B-people hire C-people.

If something is repeated enough times, people accept it as true without questioning either the assumption or the definitions. When people refer to A-people or B-people they fall back on easily measured metrics: lines of code written, number of bugs fixed.

But what is an A-person?

Do you have an ‘A-person’ because they are willing to work 14-hours a day to get the product done, or do you just have a workaholic who is headed for a divorce and an early grave? Maybe they are abusive to the people they regard as “inferior” — thereby demotivating A-people to be B- or C- people.

Is the person who is quiet a B-person, and the talkative, helpful person an A-person? Is the ‘leader’ the A-person and the follower, the B-person? Is the top salesperson the A-person?

The A-person isn’t the just the heroic firefighter running around putting out fires. The unassuming fire inspector quietly preventing fires is also the A-person. The firefighter will prevent a fire from spreading before there is too much damage – but the fire inspector will prevent the fire and all damage.

Inspiration to Greatness

But the true measure of an A-person is their ability to inspire greatness in others. They may not be a leader, nor the best coder. But they ask the questions and provide the insight to solving key problems. The A-person offers the inspired word or phrase that fires the imagination of the others around them. Those others may be the rockstar programmers that churn out the actual code. But that quiet person who spoke up is just much an A-person as the rockstar. Perhaps more so, because that insight changes the direction of companies and without that the rockstars just turn out lots of product that does not inspire customers.

I call this Greatness. I am looking for people to inspire Greatness. Greatness is when a person exceeds their ability. Everyone wants a rockstar programmer – but they are hard to come by. But look for Greatness and your company can inspire the non-rockstar programmers to exceed their natural abilities — who knows they might discover that they are in fact rockstars!

The Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad, hires for these three traits:

  • Curiosity
  • Drive
  • Ethics

Everything else he regards as trainable. I couldn’t agree more. He is looking for the essential attributes that the great companies need to inspire Greatness.

But I feel Robert’s list is more individualistic and it ignore three societal traits that also cannot be trained:
Greatness list:

  • Willingness to share the glory
  • Non-judgmental
  • Eagerness to teach

How many “rockstar” programmers have the last 3? But all three are need to inspire others to greatness. Think about people that had the opposite of those traits:

Anti-Greatness list

  • “I get the credit, you get the blame”
  • “You are an idiot”
  • “RTFM”, “Figure it out for yourself, I am too busy”, “It’s easy”

If you have those people on board, make them aware of their Anti-Greatness behavior.

If they cannot, or will not correct it, then no matter how good technically they are, fire them. Otherwise you might as well just start buying posters here.

Posted in management.

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