Five Benefits of Losing Your Star Players

Top PerformersMy team is undergoing a tremendous amount of change as several of our long-term, star players are moving on to other opportunities both in and outside the organization. For several years the composition of my team has remained relatively stable but now we’re entering a new phase of growth, which is both scary and exciting. It seems like each day I’m having the old Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” conversation with my managers, as we try to sort out who’s going, who’s staying, and how we’re getting our work done.

It’s easy to get discouraged when top performers leave your team. The immediate reaction is often to look at all the challenges that lay ahead — How do we replace the intellectual capital that’s walking out the door? Who is going to cover the work while we hire replacements? Will the new hires be able to match the productivity and contributions of the previous employees? All those questions swirl through your mind as you ponder the endless hours you’re going to have to invest in recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training new team members.

Rather than being discouraged, I’m energized and looking forward to the future because the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term difficulties. Here’s five benefits I see to losing top performers:

1. It proves you’re doing something right. Huh? Doesn’t it mean that something must be wrong with your leadership or team dynamics if you’re losing your top people? Well, if you’re a toxic leader and your team’s morale and performance is in the tank, then yes, there’s something wrong. But if you’re doing a good job of leading it means you’re hiring the right talent and developing them to high performance. I take a little pride in knowing that other leaders see the immense talent I have on my team and they want to hire them away.

2. Your team is better off for their contributions. The contributions of my star players have helped raise the level of professionalism, productivity, and capability of my team over the last several years. They have redefined what “normal” performance looks like and we’ll be looking to existing team members and our new hires to reach that same level. We are better off for having them on our team and I believe they are better off for having been on our team.

3. It provides a chance for existing team members to step up. Losing valuable contributors is an opportunity for other team members to step up their game, either by moving into higher levels of responsibility or by taking on short-term duties to cover the gap. When you have several high-performers on a team, it’s easy for other valuable team members to get buried on the depth-chart (to use a football metaphor). Losing a star player allows second-team players to step into the limelight and prove their capabilities.

4. You can bring in new blood. Having long-term, high-performers on your team brings stability and continuity. However, stability and continuity can easily become routine and complacency if you aren’t careful. Hiring new people brings fresh perspective, a jolt of energy, and a willingness to try new things you haven’t done before. Teams are living organisms and living entities are always growing and changing. I see this as a new era to bring in a fresh crop of star players that will raise our performance to even higher levels.

5. It facilitates needed change. Bringing in new team members is a great time to address broader changes in your business. You have new people who aren’t conditioned to existing work processes, systems, or ways of running your business. They aren’t yet infected with the “that’s the way we’ve always done it around here” virus that tends to infiltrate groups that stay together for a long time. It’s a time to capitalize on the strengths and ideas of new team members to help you take your business to new heights.

Losing high-performers is never easy but it doesn’t have to be devastating. I’m grateful to have worked with star players that are moving on to other challenges and I’m excited about developing a new wave of top performers that will lead us in the years ahead. It’s time for change…Bring it!

8 Comments on “Five Benefits of Losing Your Star Players

  1. Randy, leave it to you to find the silver lining and the good in all things. It is really hard to lose star players, but you managed to find the best in it. That’s why I love to read your perspectives. Nicely done.

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    • Thank you Skip, I appreciate your kind words! I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some great people on my team and even though it’s bittersweet to see them leave, they are moving on to share their gifts and talents with others.

      Take care,

      Randy

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  2. Randy, it is a great description of the two ways to handle this situation. In addition – even though just one new team member is introduced it will always create a change in the team. The manager needs to be ready to facilitate this change like a manager would start up a completely new team.

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    • Birgitte – So true! Adding new team members means the leader needs to be aware of and manage the new dynamics. It’s a great opportunity to re-charter your team and review its vision, mission, and norms.

      Take care,

      Randy

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  3. It is an good article about opposite thinking and positive attitude. But it can be very hard in reality. If company loses several key players in a roll, it may indicate something must be looked at carefully by top management, either the direction of the company , compensation/motivation package, management style (or change in management style)..

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    • Hello Derinta. I agree with you. If there is a chronic issue of turnover then the entire operation should be examined.

      Best regards,

      Randy

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  4. This is a tough one for any leader. You really want to support your star players in their aspirations, but it can leave a large gap in your team. Having gone through this on numerous occasions, what I’ve learned is to make sure their replacement is carefully chosen and given the necessary transition time. Sometimes, when a promotion is offered, the new position needs to start immediately. This means you not only lose your star player, but also probably rush the back-fill hire. This has never gone well in my experience. Now, I work hard with all stakeholders to ensure a strong transition period and, if you don’t find the right back-fill right away, work through the gap rather than risk a rushed hire.

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    • Excellent points Nick. My experience in rushing the hiring process is similar to yours. It’s usually better to take your time to make the right selection even if it means enduring some short term pain.

      Take care,

      Randy

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