Bring Your 'A' Game

The phrase “Bring Your ‘A’ Game” may conjure memories of a project where excellence was required, a championship game, or a time when efforts were requested above and beyond ordinary expectations. When I think of my ‘A’ game as an associate of Benefitfocus and a member of this amazing management team, it means something different. A long time ago, I realized that bringing my ‘A’ game must be a core attribute and not something I choose to adopt or pay attention to every once in a while when the outcome of a situation depends heavily on my performance. 

To some the term ‘A player’ brings to mind the management practice where organizations rank associates as ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ players. With this approach, ‘A’ players are typically the top 20 percent of all performers. While I do advocate that you evaluate your team – at least annually – to rank and focus on individual and team growth, I do not believe that once a year is often enough to think about whether someone is on their ‘A’ game.

When I consider how best to define an ‘A’ game, the following thoughts come to mind:


Establish yourself as a resource that consistently blocks, tackles and solves the toughest problems. Bravery may not be discussed often in management materials, but there should be a special place for folks who demonstrate this quality on your team. 


Individuals and teams must be flexible and mentally quick in today’s business climate. Find a way to help your organization foster ease of decision-making and eliminate process, hierarchies and rationales that do not allow for quick hit improvements.


Sharing expectations and then communicating on a frequent basis about those expectations is critical at all levels. This holds true for how we interface with clients, communicate about key projects and share information with the team.


When assertiveness is demonstrated, better-quality business results can be obtained and creative ideas are shared more organically. Look for opportunities to provide thoughtful input and new concepts whenever opportunities arise to help your organization achieve maximum results. Regularly encourage your team to be assertive, and then watch their creative juices flow. 


As a manager, it is vitally important that you are approachable for mentorship and guidance purposes. Remember MBWA (Management By Walking Around) will help make you more accessible to your team. Depending on if you have a centralized or decentralized workforce, MBWA may be easy to implement. Promote helpfulness and ask people to collaborate on projects that hold major business value.


As with anything in management, when it comes to defining what exemplifies being on your ‘A’ game, there is no single answer or approach. To help be more successful, define the ‘A’ player characteristics that you and your team will embrace, and then routinely monitor and discuss the results you achieve #together.