Despite decades of music lessons I never picked up a handbell until I joined a handbell choir over 20 years ago. The choir director was wise to place me beside an accomplished ringer when she formed the group. She placed this experienced ringer at the very center of the choir at middle C. For most of my ringing life now, I have had the good fortune to play beside an expert. If she is absent, practice and performance is more of a challenge. She raises the bar for those who play around her. My handbell learning curve was much shorter and my level of ringing has risen considerably than had I been placed beside a B or C level ringer.

There was a time, not too long ago when employers were shaking bushes for months seeking a bona fide candidate to fill an open position. My how times have changed. Since the economic fire hose blasted a plethora of folks into the job pool, HR offices face an average of 118 applicants for every open position. There is no longer the problem born of recycling (if you’ll excuse the term) the cream of the crap. The ill-advised employment practice of putting a warm body into a vacant position to get the job done is more inexcusable than ever.

I have long advocated for the placement of the very best person in the position you can afford. By my way of thinking, ‘overqualified’ should be left up to the candidate to define. I have seen some incredibly high level executives accept job offers the proposing organizations never dreamed possible. Even if you can keep that REALLY, REALLY qualified employee for only a short while, you’ve raised the bar for your organization and your employees. Rubbing elbows with excellence is NEVER a bad idea! “I don’t hire anybody not brighter than I am. If they’re not smarter than me, I don’t need them,” Paul “Bear” Bryant.

It’s a philosophy the late Steve Jobs believed in too. “I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream….A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

It makes for an interesting dilemma: the merit of having A and B and even some C players at your company and what the mixture does to the quality of your product, the employee chemistry and your workplace culture. Jobs insisted upon hiring all A+ team players. It turned out to be a great practice for him. If there is a mixture, his thought was that the A players are likely to perform under their standard while the B team would fail to rise to A team level.

It’s human nature to avoid situations where we don’t compete well, certainly those where we face continuous defeat. We prefer the ease and comfort of playing at or down from our level. Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. Play for more than you can afford to lose, and you will learn the game.” You gotta pay to play! Play UP!

We can’t all be A+ players or Apple employees. But we can learn and grow into being the best. Find someone to challenge and coach you. True A-Teamers will gravitate towards competitive play/players. But helping someone improve and succeed can actually be as worthwhile as exceeding your own level. “The higher joy is not the light, it’s the reflection. The greater pleasure is not climbing up; it’s handing down,” Bruce Feiler, (The Council of Dads). Who’s challenging and coaching you? And who are YOU pulling UP in your wake?

Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.(Leonard Cohen)

~From the desk of Becky Morlok~

In honor of A+ Ringer: Laura B

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