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Arnie Rowland

Discussion of issues related to SQL Server, the MSDN SQL Support Forums, the complex interplay between Developers and SQL Server Administrators, and our sometimes futile attempts to have a 'normal' life.

Do You Have What It Takes?

I was engaged in a conversation recently where the topic under discussion was "What defines an "A" class player?" Others in the conversation were trying to get a handle on 'greatness', because they desire to create an "A" class Team in their work environment. They want to lead their organization to the 'top of the heap', so they wish to purposefully seek out and hire "A" class players. So it seemed important to try and understand how we go about determining 'greatness'; how do we know when we meet, or when we see, or when we interview, or even when we work with an "A" class player. I'm going to expand on that discussion and attempt to outline what seems to be some of the obvious discriminators. And of course, I invite you, the reader, to add your insights.


First, let’s start at the beginning. Some say that the "A" class player is born with whatever it takes. Others think that it can be learned and nurtured. That brings into question the concept of 'talent'. Is talent an inherent quality, something one is born with -or can it be considered a ‘skill’ that can be learned? I contend that it goes even deeper than talent. Talent and skill alone doesn't make the "A" class player. You have probably known talented or skilled people -perhaps in the top of his/her talent or skill, yet unable to rise in the work environment to be a truly "A" class player. There is something at the 'root' of an "A" class player that allows them to focus their natural talent and focus their learned 'skills' and rise to greatness in the work environment.


Let's accept that there may be 'talent' and that there may be 'skills'. The "A" class player hones his/her talent, learns 'skills' –practices both, expands his/her knowledge, and in general is 'prepared'. Most definitely there will be preparation. Lots of preparation: practice, skill building, learning, even observing other "A" class players. The "A" class player has a lot of desire and a lot of drive to be an "A" class player. The "A" class player will discover and truly 'know' his/her strengths and weaknesses. He or she will have a strong 'work ethic' –taking pride in his/her accomplishments. He or she will be able to concentrate on the task as hand, exhibiting intense 'staying power', even while maintaining the 'larger picture'. The "A" class player will be more attuned to seeing how all the parts fit together.


The "A" class player desires to that his/her work be significant, be noteworthy, and make a tangible contribution to the overall effort. The "A" class player can be counted on to give more that the minimum required –they understand that excellence requires exceptional effort. He or she constantly exhibits passion for the endeavor and will take pride in making the ‘last effort’ to push the objective to completion.


The “A” class player has ‘charisma’ –everyone around him/her actually ‘feels’ better and contributes more as a result. He or she leads by doing, leads by example. The “A” class player does not engage in demeaning or humiliating actions or behaviors towards others. The "A" class player has a keen sense of right and wrong, a highly developed ethical map, and a strong moral compass. The “A” class player will often show a deep respect for his/her competitors –for those competitors are often his/her peers. The “A” class player easily handles the high level of attention and stress –and actually seems to enjoy it.


The “A” class player understands that it is necessary to take ‘risks’ –yet attempts to understand and mitigate all known risks. And the “A” class player will learn from his/her mistakes. The “A” class player is capable of adjusting goals and objectives, exhibiting flexibility, and delivering the expected end product.


The "A" class player will have a passion for their work -and they will have passion for their play, their non-work life. The “A” class player will have a strong, vibrant, and invigorating family and social life. The "A" class player will know and understand balance.


It was mentioned above that the "A" class player observes other "A" class players to learn. They will also seek out other "A" class players for networking, socializing, and for friendship. They will gravitate towards others exhibiting greatness because they subconsciously understand that the bright light of another 'star' challenges them to improve –and it also illuminates them and causes them to shine brighter. The "A" class player desires to surround him/herself with greatness.  The "A" class player desires to be on the winning 'team'. The “A” class player wants to be on the “A” Team.


So, tell me, are you an "A" class player?

Do you work with one?


(Next I will explore what does it take to create an "A" Team.)

Published Saturday, May 2, 2009 10:19 AM by ArnieRowland



Aaron Alton said:

Awesome article.  Very insightful and thought-provoking.  

I think that an "A" class player is also one that requires an "A" class team, or no team at all.  I've known more than a couple of "A" class players who started out doing amazing things in "B" class teams, but sooner or later the "B" class team wears down an "A" class player.

May 2, 2009 10:04 PM

unclebiguns said:

I wouldn't consider myself an "A" class player although I am striving to become one.  I think the key is in this line "He or she will be able to concentrate on the task as hand, exhibiting intense 'staying power', even while maintaining the 'larger picture'.".  This to me is the ability to stay focused and, to be honest, is probably where I, and I think most who have the skills to be "A" class, fall short.  

I disagree with Aaron's comment, as I believe a real "A" class player will bring the rest of the team to the "A" Class level for that project.  I find it much easier to raise the level of my "game" when working with an "A" Class player.

May 4, 2009 10:14 AM

Jonathan Kehayias said:


It's funny to read your post having just graduated from the Drill Sergeant school in the Army because of how much it applies to the last two months of my life.  There are definately certain traits and characteristics that people just have that make them a type "A" personality, but that doesn't necessarily make them a "A" class person.  I know a number of type "A" personalities in the Army, most Drill Sergeants tend to have the traits that naturally make them successful at what they do, and generally make them good leaders that people will follow, but not all of them are "A" class people.  

I think your statement "The "A" class player desires to that his/her work be significant, be noteworthy, and make a tangible contribution to the overall effort." does a very good job of hitting the point.  You can be one of the type "A" individuals that is highly competent, exceptionally talented, and still miss the mark.  

May 5, 2009 10:32 AM

Marc Schluper said:

The "A" class player is focused and keeps his eyes on the ball.

Yet he (she) enjoys the process rather than meeting the goal and hence can adapt quickly.

He wants to grow, learn, and build experience, yet does whatever is needed, trusting life's abundance.

He does not expect anything from co-workers, but never misses a chance to inspire them.

The "A" class player is happy to be an "A" class player, but never acts like he knows, never expects anything in return, because he knows being an "A" class player is nothing but a blessing.

The true "A" class player, like a magnet, aligns his co-workers effortlessly, by focus alone.

The "A" class player is awesome because he knows there is an "A" class player in everyone and he just loves to meet them all.

October 22, 2009 5:25 PM
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