The Five Traits of an A Player

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Since 1997, Entelligence consultants have delivered over 30,000 enterprise IT projects. And what we’ve found is that the top 10% of IT consultants – the A players – have 5 traits that put them head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd.

The traits you’re about to read may seem simple but, the key to success here is consistency. Only doing some of these things and not others won’t add up to A player status. And doing all of these things only some of the time? Same. The rule of thumb is: A Players do to 100% of these things 100% of the time.

  1. A Players Master Communication

Most IT projects fail not because of poor planning, the wrong design or faulty technology. They fail because of poor communication. Being able to explain technical information to non-technical people is a skill A players not only have but have mastered. They know how to change their language, alter their communication style and mimic the body language of the person they’re communicating with. They can clearly articulate goals, strategies and outcomes to all management levels in an organization. They evoke confidence and have tremendous patience, making sure everyone is clear no matter how long it takes. A players know to give status reports and to do so proactively; they understand that project close-out and process documentation are critical; and they work to build and maintain confidence among their peers and managers that result in successful outcomes.

  1. A Players Go the Extra Mile

A players are hungry. There’s no doubt that they are passionate about what they do. But they are also ambitious. They want to advance their careers to the highest level. They want to learn and grow. And they’re constantly striving to level-up their skills, both technically and professionally.

In The Behaviors that Define A Players, authors Zenger and Folkman say the single most powerful differentiator between top performers (A players) and good performers (B players) is that A players set stretch goals and adopt high standards for themselves. “The best individual contributors set — and met — stretch goals that went beyond what others thought were possible. They also encouraged others to achieve exceptional results.” Remember our last blog? This is the cycle of how A players work to not only improve themselves but to improve the team, too. This takes time and effort, and A players don’t shy away from the challenge.

  1. For A Players, Failure is Not an Option

Let’s face it: technology is finicky. It’s complex. It changes constantly. And it evolves quickly. What works in theory doesn’t always work in reality. But A players know this and they remember it. They anticipate problems, head them off before they occur, and execute a solution before anyone realizes there’s an issue. And when a problem is unavoidable, they’ve got a “plan B” in their back pocket. They proactively communicate and provide solutions. What’s more, they see, understand and don’t waste time pointing fingers. Instead, A players point the way to a solution.

  1. A Players Are an Open Book

A Players are eager to share what they know with others. They want to learn and grow, and they help others do the same. They are an open book and understand that by sharing their knowledge and experiences, both good and bad, their team and the company will improve.

B and C players, on the other hand, withhold information. They may think “in order for me to win, you must lose.” A players aren’t afraid of competition; they embrace it. They can win a game as an individual A player and at the same time can be a part of a team of A players that can win a championship together.

  1. A Players Are Straight Shooters

A players are authentic. They know who they are and especially who they’re not. “Genuine” is often a word used to describe them. They are confident yet humble and have a sincere drive for themselves, their team, their customers, and their employers. They know that the best way to deliver their best work is to be honest and realistic with everyone involved. What sets them apart is that they want to deliver great customer experiences even if that means they’re not “right” all the time. And they want everyone to win. They know the best way to achieve these outcomes is with honest and positive intentions.

We’ve covered who the A player is, the impact they have on companies, teams and even themselves, and the traits they have that allow them to deliver such amazing results (remember, 12 times more productive!). And for all this to work, you know you have to do 100% of these things 100% of the time to see the results A players see.

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