Jessica Powell, the former Google vice president who wrote The Big Disruption and told you how to quit your job, is here to answer your common but tricky work questions. Check back every other week for more management advice with a tech inflection.
I manage a team of directors, who in turn manage a team of managers/associates. Most of the directors are high-performing, but one is a solid B player. She meets most of her goals but never stretches like the other directors. How should I think about managing her? Should organizations make room for B players?
A t first glance, many people — including myself, earlier in my career — would consider this an easy question to answer: You have to move the B player out.
But it’s not really so simple. Sometimes the people who are just okay at their core jobs contribute a lot of value to a company in other ways.
For example, I once worked with someone who was exactly what you describe — fine, but not amazing, surrounded by a lot of people who were stronger performers. But they were one of the most enthusiastic employees around, and brought a lot to the team culture, keeping things light when work was stressful, and always offering to step in and help out when an employee was too stretched or was out sick. I didn’t want to lose that.
Cultivating a culture of rock stars can often mean you are also cultivating a cutthroat culture.
Here in Silicon Valley, everyone talks a lot about hiring “rock stars.” Sometimes that’s just a company’s way of saying, “I want to hire a really good 25-year-old and not have to pay them that much,” but often it means that they want to hire someone who is a total workhorse, will give their life to the company, and will go above and beyond the call of duty. (And, unlike a real rock star, won’t show up late to work after a late night spent snorting cocaine off someone’s chest.)
But there are dangers to having a hard-and-fast rule of “only A players.” Cultivating a culture of rock stars can often mean you are also cultivating a cutthroat culture, ruled by the fear of “up or…