Building a Stronger Team: The ABC Test


In one of my previous posts (“One Big Family… Or A Team?“), I wrote about the importance of building a strong team. While there’s a lot that goes into that, including developing good hiring and training processes, the first question to ask is “Are the people you have now the right fit?” How do you know? The following exercise is a good way to evaluate your current team.

If you have 15 to 20 employees, create a list of each of their names. If you have more than that, then you may just want to use this tool to evaluate your management team. The concept works no matter how many people you have, so it really depends on how much time you want to invest. It’s also a good idea to do this exercise with your leadership team. Have each person work through it individually, then come together to compare and discuss the results.

Beside each name you’re going to write the letter A, B, or C, based on your answer to this question: If this person told you today that they are leaving your company, how would you feel? If you would be shaken, bothered, distressed, or upset, and would even start thinking of ways you might convince this person to stay, write an “A”. If you wouldn’t feel strongly one way or the other (in other words you think they’re just fine but you’re confident you can easily replace them) then write a “B”. If, however, you’d feel relieved that they’re leaving, write a “C”.

Now think about these questions. For your A’s, what are you doing to ensure that they have an enjoyable environment to work in and are fulfilled in the work they do? Are you sufficiently investing in their career growth so that they’re motivated to stay? Also, are these people A’s because of their fit and the value they bring, or simply because no one else knows how to do what they do? If the latter is the case, you need better redundancy. If someone wouldn’t be an “A” if they had a backup, then they’re not really an “A”.

For your B’s, could they be A’s if they were in a position that fit them better? Of if they had better training? If not, that’s okay. All organizations need solid “B” players. Just make sure they aren’t neglected to the point that they slip down into the next category.

For your C’s, why are they still on your team? Are they holding information hostage? Are they the only ones who know how to do their job (see above)? Have they been with the company for a long time, and keeping them is a sign of “loyalty”? Or are they just a nice person, and you don’t want to hurt them? All of these are poor reasons to keep someone, and need to be resolved right away. If there is any way to make this person a “B”, either by giving them more training or changing their positions, then by all means make it happen. But if not, let them go and preserve the team. Your A’s and B’s know that these people are C’s, by the way, and they’re likely tired of having to carry them. Is it worth losing an “A” because you wouldn’t remove a “C”?

As a leader, you have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the team, even at the cost of one or more individuals. Don’t take this responsibility lightly. Give this matter its proper consideration, get feedback from your leadership team or others you trust, and then do whatever needs to be done. In the long run, your team will thank you for it.