by Nancy Couture

Tip No. 1: Hire ‘A’ players and empower them

Sep 23, 2016
Agile DevelopmentCareersIT Leadership

The first tip for successfully creating and leading agile data management development teams.

This is a continuation of my series “Five Tips for Leading Agile Data Management Development Teams.” Here, I discuss the first tip: Hire “A” players who will build the foundation for a great self-managing team.

What is an ‘A’ player? 

Typically, the top 10% of talent available for a particular position would be considered “A” players, according to Topgrading by Bradford Smart.  “A” players clearly stand out above the rest. 

How do you identify and hire ‘A’ players?

Identifying and hiring “A” players is not an easy task, but it can be made easier if you know what characteristics to look for. Here are the typical characteristics of “A” players, along with a description of the impact “A” players make as you create and lead self-managing teams.

‘A’ player characteristic

Impact to self-managing teams

Holistic: an “A” player is one who has the ability to look at the big picture and then make decisions and offer solutions that solve for that big picture.

This is especially important in agile environments, where development is done incrementally. Having the ability to envision the big picture while developing user story by user story is a skill that is highly beneficial.

Enthusiastic: “A” players have positive outlooks and positive dispositions. They are able to motivate others with their can-do attitudes. 

A positive outlook can be contagious. No matter how successful a team is, there are always challenges to face. Having “A” players who face these in a positive manner will move the needle.

Adaptable: “A” players are able to take on roles and responsibilities beyond what they were originally hired to do. They have the self-confidence to step outside of their comfort zones. They can change course and adapt as required.

By definition, self-managing teams in agile development environments are cross-functional groups where individuals work together to manage the team workload and shift work among themselves based on need and best fit. Team members who are comfortable playing multiple roles, depending on what needs to get done, are ideally suited.

Reliable: “A” players are consistently reliable. They keep their word and they follow through. 

Reliability is key to a self-managing team, since each individual must contribute to each release in order for it to be successful.

Learners: “A” players will continually invest in themselves, increasing their knowledge and skills, bringing these to bear in the workplace as needed.

Agile requires ongoing improvement.  “A” players who are willing to continue to bring new ideas, tools and solutions to the group will enable continuous improvement.

Team players: We live in an interconnected environment. “A” players understand the importance of being able to contribute to a team while also being able to rely on others in that team.

Agile teams desperately require individuals who are team players, who understand that the team’s collective wisdom produces the best results.

There are many other characteristics that are valuable when looking for your “A” players, such as analytical skills, judgment, ability to make decisions, skill level and experience, integrity and strong communication skills. Each of these will help to improve the overall quality and results of the self-managing team.

agile team word cloud Nancy Couture

As a leader of “A” players, ensure that you empower them and provide the right environment.  A good team is a great place to be — it’s exciting, stimulating, supportive and successful.  This will attract the “A” players you should be looking for.  And, with the right team members, your good team can become a great team — one that you can trust to be successful at self-managing.

The next article in this series will focus on Tip No. 2: Create an Enabling Team Structure.

To see a full set of my blog posts, visit my author page.