How losing top people can enhance your team’s success

Nightmare scenario: You’re 30 days away from implementation of a major strategy and your lead designer / architect / financial guru gives notice. Short notice.

On the brink of panic, what do you do? Well, it’s likely not nearly as bad as you think. Here’s what I’ve learned from seeing this up close:

1. Superstars often mask the talents of others.

I was on a team call where the lead engineer was tackling a big problem. Team members attempted to interject, but he kept rolling right through without even breathing. On the messaging back channel a message popped up , “Just let him solve it.” Why try if one person is willing to do all the extra work?

Team members balance their efforts to get stuff done. They will back off if one individual is handling the heavy lifting. When superstars leave, members can re-engage and increase their efforts to fill the gap.

2. Departures expose risks related to knowledge-sharing.

I used to run workshops where I’d ask, “If the building is on fire and you can only carry out 3 items, what would they be?” One person (who had clearly not been to a gym in a while) said they would haul a server rack down 14 flights of stairs. Another said they would carry the Executive Assistant out. This seemed more creepy than chivalrous.

A lot of knowledge is intangible. We can’t afford to rely on one person for all the answers. Departures prompt teams to ask good questions to ensure they know the why as well as the what.

3. Leaders discover that there are other great resources available.

There are very few people who are truly irreplaceable. Even when we can’t find a clone, a change in personality and approach injects new life into the team.

4. Replacements prompt creative thinking.

Teams based their work on a variety of assumptions that no one bothers to question any more. New members often ask questions that challenge assumptions as they learn how to operate effectively in a new environment.

While rapid departures are often inconvenient, they are rarely catastrophes. Embrace the change!

I’m curious – have you had the same experience? Let me know.

Thoughtfully yours,

Jeff Skipper

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.