First, Second and Third Raters

Every startup expertise blog or book starts with telling you how important talent is in hiring and shaping the team that is going to drive the startup.  The authors assert that you should always hire “A players.”  How do you know when you are interviewing or listening to recommendations whether you have an “A player” or a “D player?”

With tongue only slightly planted in cheek, the following is a guide to what I call first raters, second raters, and third raters.  Enjoy the distinctions.  Hopefully you will add more of these distinctions through your comments.

  • A first rater always develops talent
    • A second rater micro manages talent
      • A third rater abuses talent by making them work on menial tasks for long hours (or does not recognize whether someone has talent or even understand that they should be looking for talent).
  • A first rater encourages active and confronting dialogue
    • A second rater tries to keep the peace or does nothing
      • A third rater is an abusive confronter and acts as dictator brooking no dissent.
  • A first rater actively seeks current reality– what is really happening now
    • A second rater hopes that things will turn out all right
      • A third rater continually changes the goals to reflect what they’ve just accomplished.
  • A first rater seeks first to understand, before trying to be understood
    • A second rater lectures and doesn’t listen, wanting to be understood and not caring about other points of view
      • A third rater doesn’t listen, rather they rant and dictate.
  • A first rater accepts responsibility when things go wrong
    • A second rater avoids responsibility and accountability
      • A third rater blames others.
  • A first rater is inclusive and uses “we” when things are going right and gives specific attribution to those who made the good thing happen
    • A second rater uses the royal “we” when things go right but makes sure everyone knows it was really them that made it happen
      • A third rater uses “I did it” when things go right, “You” when things go wrong and uses the word I almost exclusively for everything else.
  • A first rater has a vision and a passion for and a plan for getting to BHAGs
    • A second rater has a vision and a passion for how they will get promoted
      • A third rater figures out how to take credit for someone else’s leadership and results.
  • A first rater understands that leadership is always taken, never given
    • A second rater waits to lead until somebody gives them a title and positional authority
      • A third rater whines and rants and backstabs by letting everyone know that nobody understands that they are the real leader and the key to success.
  • A first rater uses the Outcome Frame (What are we trying to create?  How will we know we created it? …)
    • A second rater uses the Blame Frame (What is the problem? Who caused it? …)
      • A third rater accuses others of being unethical, liars and cheaters.
  • A first rater understands that it is results that matter not how hard somebody works
    • A second rater comes in early and stays late and makes sure everyone knows how hard they are working
      • A third rater requires others to always be present, work late, while he/she is out playing customer golf and drinking late into the night and calling it work.
  • A first rater respects others time, and plans carefully
    • A second rater creates lots of meetings with no agendas and lots of floundering
      • A third rater triple books themselves and leaves others to wait until she shows up and graces everyone with her presence.
  • A first rater eliminates and dissolves problems so that no one even knew there was a problem looming
  • A first rater adds creative energy to every environment they participate in
    • A second rater uses others energies to get ahead
      • A third rater sucks all energy from the environment.
  • A first rater understands the Theory of Constraints (from Eli Goldratt’s The Goal) and knows that in any system only a few work steps need to be managed
    • A second rater will try to optimize every single step in every process and therefore optimizes nothing
      • A third rater doesn’t even see that there is a system of work.
  • A first rater hires only Talent that has a passion for continuous personal development – life long learners who are also good at developing other people’s Talent
    • A second rater hires only “A” talent that are self-proclaimed experts in a narrow domain who are not interested in learning and assumes the best athletes will make the best team
      • A third rater hires only C, D or E talent.
  • A first rater under promises and over delivers
    • A second rater over promises and under delivers
      • A third rater promises whatever they think the boss wants to hear and never delivers.
  • A first rater treats everyone with extraordinary respect
    • A second rater shows respect only to those above them in the hierarchy or those they think can get them ahead
      • A third rater disdains everyone.
  • A first rater understands the value of strategic networking and gives to the network long before they need to extract value from the network
    • A second rater only works their operational network to get today’s task done
      • A third rater tries to use other people’s networks to get ahead.
  • A first rater understands the dynamics of value exchange relationships
    • A second rater tries to extract more value from the other party than is given in return
      • A third rater uses positional or monopoly power to extract unfair value which cannot sustain the other party.
  • A first rater provides feedback on things which need improvement in private and with frameworks which allow the other person to generalize and learn and develop
    • A second rater points out the problem in private but offers no guidance on how to improve
      • A third rater humiliates the “problem” person in very public settings.
  • A first rater generates plans and organizational structures which are sustainable without the leader present
    • A second rater generates plans and organizational structures which require the manager to always be present in order to be workable
      • A third rater generates plans and organizational structures which cannot work and leads to the firing of the subordinates for not getting work done.
  • A first rater shares all information and knowledge they possess to help develop others
    • A second rater expects others to keep information and knowledge so that they can go to the others on an interrupt basis when they need something
      • A third rater hoards all information and knowledge and requires everyone to grovel to get the information.
  • A first rater creates work environments that lead to sustainability for the planet
    • A second rater uses natural resources without any thought to their impact on sustainability and the planet
      • A third rater actively and intentionally pollutes.
  • A first rater understands that no human is exactly like him/her and that one needs to be flexible in dealing with talent (see David Keirsey Temperament Indicator)
    • A second rater expects everyone else to adjust to them
      • A third rater believes everyone else is just like him/her.
  • A first rater practices deep listening skills always
    • A second rater listens with “their motor running” just waiting for their turn to say something and does not pay attention to the other person.
      • A third rater reads email messages on their blackberry when someone else is talking.

My brother, who went to work for our “Australian brother” seeding 10,000 hectares of wheat in Kunnonoppin, West Australia, having never driven a monster tractor or 18 wheel truck before contributed the following:

  • A first rater jumps on a seeding tractor in West Australia with no instruction and goes “Good on ya mate” and proceeds to seed wheat for six weeks of 12 hour days
    • A second rater tries to get four days of instruction on how to run this big tractor and all these trucks that drive on the wrong side of the road and wants to wait for their commercial driver’s license
      • A third rater jumps in the tractor and promptly takes out several acres of fences and busts the augers.

Barney Barnett generalized the notion of first, second or third rater to:

  • A first rater is 10X.  They break the old command and control mold.  They are transformational.  They create brand new paradigms and enable others to do the same.
    • A second rater is able to understand and add a “factor”.  They have a step function increase in the ability to get leverage, develop people and ideas and move into a new paradigm (as compared to a third rater).
      • A third rater is a pre-Edison manager or leader.  They come from the old command and control model.  They need clear definition of what you are stating as the old paradigm to move away from.

David Socha asked himself “What is the essence of the first rater, second rater, or third rater?”

  • A first rater is generative
    • A second rater is self-centered
      • A third rater is a destroyer.

Additional entries from my strategic network of wonderfully creative colleagues:

  • A first rater does not draw attention to their first rater status
    • A second rater promotes their own perceived first rater status
      • A third rater sabotages others’ first rater status.
  • A first rater works proactively to create an environment where innovation and technical accomplishment are anticipated, appreciated and celebrated
    • A second rater markets pedestrian accomplishments as important achievements
      • A third rater identifies barriers and risks and claims that stopping work to avoid risk is an accomplishment.
  • A first rater hires exceptional people with exceptional capabilities and manages the differences that exceptional people exhibit
    • A second rater hires well balanced employees accepting a uniform average as a strong team
      • A third rater hires compliant employees and encourages them to conform to the pretense of excellence.
  • A first rater identifies and clears barriers before the team runs into them
    • A second rater clears barriers after the team runs into them and seeks recognition for heroic problem solving
      • A third rater identifies risks and uses them for excuses to move more slowly, cautiously or stopping altogether.
  • A first rater changes the rules to create an outcome that meets or exceeds organizational expectations
    • A second rater does heroics to win playing by the rules.
      • A third rater doesn’t win.
  • A first rater leads from the front like a seal team leader
    • A second rater manages from the back like an army general (Rear Echelon Mother F****er – REMF)
      • A third rater doesn’t lead at all.
  • A first rater shows up for important events and serves the team in time of crisis; they are part of the team
    • A second rater publicly recognizes important events and accomplishments
      • A third rater doesn’t know when significant accomplishments are claimed.
  • A first rater is focused on outcomes, not the tactics to accomplish them
    • A second rater focuses on the successful accomplishment of tactics
      • A third rater continuously replans to make the desired outcome match the accomplished tactics.
  • A first rater isn’t rewarded because there weren’t any heroics to be performed; their contribution isn’t recognized
    • A second rater receive bonuses and promotions because of their heroics
      • A third rater costs everyone else their bonuses.
  • A first rater may continue to try and change the rules, lead, and be a team player but may become frustrated and/or leave due to second-rater influence
    • A second rater will continue to hire other second-raters.  And so second-raters become the yeast in the organization that causes it to atrophy over time, killing innovation and accomplishment
      • A third rater is the only one left in a decaying organization.
  • A first rater makes the right thing happen at the right time
    • A second rater notices that something happened that will change their routine (I’m flexible so long as you don’t change anything)
      • A third rater wonders what just happened.
  • A first rater believes that the upside to listening is always greater than that of speaking and therefore typically listens to others and digests their thoughts before speaking themselves
    • A second rater gives the appearance of listening to others but is really just thinking about what they want to say
      • A third rater always wants to speak first so as to show everyone how smart they are.
  • A first rater implements processes and procedures where they believe it will facilitate achieving a business objective
    • A second rater implements processes and procedures because they think that implementing processes and procedures is the business objective
      • A third rater avoids implementing processes and procedures because they will possibly detract from the heroic effort which illustrates their individual value.
  • A first rater works with the personalities of their team (but challenges personal growth as well as professional growth)
    • A second rater does not address the difference in personalities that exist in any team
      • A third rater tries to force changes to the personalities on the team.
  • A first rater shows compassion for the person in all of the challenges that life brings each of us
    • A second rater ignores life outside of work
      • A third rater drives compassion out of the organization by driving work without regard to the person.
  • A first rater always reacts the same – giving the team a trusting environment in which to concentrate on themselves and their work
    • A second rater does not attempt to react consistently
      • A third rater lets emotions drive each response – keeping the team tense and on edge.
  • A first rater embraces change and encourages the team to take the opportunities that come with each change
    • A second rater ignores change and tries to keep the illusion that everything is the same
      • A third rater uses change to drive their own growth or to scare the team.
  • A first rater shows vision, inspires and leads their team towards worthy goals
    • A second rater manages a project by deliverable dates and resource tracking and scheduling
      • A third rater acts on whatever random “opportunities” come their way.

Can you determine whether the Dilbert “boss” is a first rater, second rater, or third rater?

Destructive Criticism - January 26, 2012

As part of Harvey Brightman’s Master Teaching class, he presents “compare and contrast” as demonstrating one of the higher forms of learning goals.  I found the comparing and contrasting of the first, second and third raters as a good fit for my learning style to better understand what a “first rater” should be about.

Adam Feuer, a recent addition to my visible university of colleagues, prefers another approach which is to create aspirational lists.  He did a wonderful job in translating the above “first, second and third raters” into an inspirational list of striving for greatness.

What would you add to this list?  What distinctions do you encounter that separate the first, second and third raters?

This entry was posted in Humor, Learning, organizing, Relationship Capital, User Experience, Working in teams. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to First, Second and Third Raters

  1. davidsocha says:

    Skip, thank you for resurrecting this piece. I’m sure this list could go on forever. I was pleased that mine was the most succinct, though there still is room for a more succinct one.

    I also liked Adam Feuer’s positive reframe of your piece:

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