Sabrina, I have an employee who performs well sometimes, but other times she is forgetful, leaves work undone, and makes mistakes. I find myself bringing work home with me because I can’t count on her to do what she is supposed to be doing. 

I think she has potential because there are times when she is a great worker…if only she would be consistent so I could count on her. Would it be worthwhile to try to develop this employee into an A-Player? Is it ever possible to turn employees into A-Players with good training and coaching?

The short answer to this question is no, it is not possible to transform this type of employee into an A-Player employee. A-Players are motivated, resourceful, go-getters. They are the employees you count on to get things done.

A-Player employees are intrinsically motivated, meaning their motivation comes primarily from within. They enjoy the satisfaction of doing a good job, solving a problem, and the process of doing work in which they find meaning. Intrinsically motivated employees will work to find a solution to a problem because the challenge of finding a solution provides a sense of pleasure.

No amount of coaching or training will instill these qualities into an employee.  The only way to create an A-Player is to raise them from a young age.

External rewards are satisfying to intrinsically motivated individuals, but these rewards are not enough to keep them motivated for an extended period of time. Rather, work that interests and challenges them will keep them motivated.

This is why pay raises and bonus programs have limited effectiveness in improving  employee performance and motivation. If you have a team of A-Players, pay raises and bonus programs will enhance their performance and motivation. But, if your team is comprised of mediocre employees, pay raises and bonuses will have a minimal impact on their performance. You will likely see a brief spike in performance, followed by a return to “the same old, same old” behavior from them.

Keep in mind that 1 A-Player employee can do the work of 9 to 12 C or D-Player employees. It is a much better use of your time and energy to coach and develop your A-Player employees, than it is to wrack your brain trying to come up with ways to motivate mediocre employees. A little bit of coaching goes a long way with an A-Player. In contrast, you can spend months trying to improve the performance of a mediocre employee only to have them disappoint you, if not cost you considerably because of poor judgment or an egregious error.
It’s a better use of your energy to learn how to attract A-Player employees to your company, gradually replace employees who are performing poorly, and learn how to coach your A-Players.

Dr. Sabrina Starling, The Business Psychologist™ at Tap the Potential

Dr. Sabrina StarlingThe Business Psychologist™ and author of the How to Hire the Best series is the founder of Tap the Potential.

At Tap the Potential we specialize in transforming small businesses into highly profitable, great places to work and sending business owners on 4 Week Vacations to celebrate that achievement.

Never one to accept the status quo or back down from a challenge, Dr. Sabrina’s How to Hire the Best series grew from her desire to solve the toughest hiring challenges interfering with her clients’ growth and profitability. What sprang from her experience working with entrepreneurs in rural areas catapulted her into becoming the world’s leading expert in attracting top talent in small businesses — no matter what hiring challenges those businesses are facing — and earned Tap the Potential’s reputation as the go-to resource for entrepreneurs committed to creating Great Places to Work with thriving coaching cultures and highly engaged team members working from their strengths.

With her background in psychology, and years of driving profit in small business, Dr. Starling knows what it takes to find, keep and get exceptional performance out of your biggest investment — your team members.

Access Dr. Sabrina Starling’s How to Hire the Best Masterclass and team building tools at