Awhile back I wrote about the inspiring and unforgettable speech of the late coach Jim Valvano at the ESPY Awards. He was dying of cancer, but he told the audience, "Never give up, don’t ever give up."
Last week, New York Giants’ running back David Wilson, only 23 years old, was told he had a career-ending injury, however he declared, "When life knocks you down, I always say plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up…"
Athletes and coaches can talk about staying positive in the face of adversity, but what about organizations in the world of business that also face challenges and obstacles? How do strong leaders deal with these situations? More specifically, what do great leaders do when their most talented people leave the organization? Some of us can become so reliant on these organizational stars that the potential exists to become complacent until, for whatever reason, they opt to move on and then the challenge begins.
With this in mind, consider some of the keys to responding when your most talented players move on but your organizational goals remain:
--Take a hard look at everyone who remains on the team.
Often, our first reaction is to be fearful of the potential consequences of losing our best employees when, in some ways, it is an opportunity to evaluate the level of commitment of everyone that is left.
Find out who is willing to step up and take on more responsibility and who is not, and then use that information to make the best decisions about how the organization moves forward.
--For those who do step up and take on more responsibility with a positive attitude, reward them accordingly.
Pay them more and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts in this challenging time. It will make a big difference.
--For those who don’t step up, or haven’t been carrying their weight because the organizational star that has left was doing part of that person’s job, confront the situation directly. Ultimately, if this team player doesn’t improve (or can’t do the job) a strong leader must get this person off the bus. If not, it will be a big opportunity missed.
--Look in the mirror. Ask yourself the question, "Why did this really effective player leave?" It could be for a lot of reasons, but if part of it was because of your leadership style and the environment you helped create, then you need to do something about it.
One of the biggest reasons people leave an organization is the relationship they have with their boss.
So what is your communication style with your team members? How do you handle difficult situations? When things go wrong, do you overreact? Are you too quick to blame and not quick enough to get to a solution? Do you create more or less stress for your people?
I know at times I’ve had to take a hard look at these questions in my own approach to leadership and communication. All of us who run organizations must continue to do an honest and candid self-assessment of our strengths, but more important, where we need to get better.
Unfortunately, we are often not motivated to take this critical step until one of our most talented people decides to leave.
For leaders who can’t or won’t take this important look inward, there is every reason to expect that other great team players will leave, which will only hurt the team and its ability to achieve its goals.