What Makes An "A" Player?

By Marisa Arbona-Ruiz

With technology booming and a high demand for top talent, I began wondering after reading Harvard Business Review’s (HBR) findings on “The Behaviors that Define A-Players,” how much they apply to technology companies. The five-year study explores the differentiators between “competent” and “exceptional” individual performers. Topping the list is “setting stretch goals and adopting high standards for themselves,” followed by eight more traits that I believe exemplify quality leadership and wisdom. I asked Frank Munero, partner at Ken Leiner Associates, how he spots an “A” player. Frank has carved out a serious niche recruiting for the IT industry–particularly in the Federal sales space–for 23 years, helping many companies and careers flourish. He made five simple observations about “A” players:

  • They have a track record of success. For example, in IT sales, a history of consistently exceeding quota for multiple companies.
  • They are “in tune” with the latest technologies, able to align what’s hot with what their customers need.
  • They are passionate about selling, both to help their customers and to make a lot of money.
  • “A” players typically aren’t job hoppers. Unlike sales reps who jump around looking for easy money, they will commit to a company they believe has the right solution at the right time, and they won’t bail if things get tough.
  • In addition to some innate traits that Frank can instinctively recognize, he says they have a great attitude, are generally very smart and “on the ball,” and are good talkers but even better listeners.

Overall, achievement weighs in heavily with both the HBR findings and Frank Munero’s comments, suggesting that “A” players possess more than average initiative, drive and discipline to set goals and accomplish them. Not only are they super motivated to continuously excel, they understand the value of collaboration and positive relationships–and that combination helps to make them exceptional.