Management Challenge #19 – When you Have a Superstar you are Going to Lose for Sure, How to Lose That Superstar Very Well. (Bruce Tulgan)
What do you do when you have a superstar who is definitely going to leave?
Assuming that this is a superstar you are losing, make it a long goodbye to facilitate a good succession plan, comprehensive knowledge transfer, and a smooth transition.
Every superstar should be training and developing her replacement, systematically, on an ongoing basis. That should be something you talk about with your superstars in your one-on-ones with them, and your superstars talk about in their one-on-ones with their people. If your superstars don’t have their own direct-reports, then it’s all on you. What is your succession plan for every one of your superstars? Who is on the bench being developed to step in when that superstar steps out?
Whether or not you have a person on the bench ready to step in by the time you know your superstar is leaving, you want as much time as possible so that the superstar can help train and develop her replacement. If you have the luxury to hire the replacement before the superstar is gone, you should meet with them together on a regular ongoing basis in addition to meeting with each of them separately. In other words, triple your one-on-ones for duration of the transition period:
-Meet one-on-one with the departing superstar
-Meet one-on-one with the new replacement player
-Meet with the two of them together
In your one-on-ones, focus on the intensive knowledge transfer process that should be underway from the departing superstar and the new replacement player. Every step of the way, make absolutely certain that the knowledge transfer is being documented in detail in a set of tangible information assets that can be used thereafter as learning/training tools. Ideally, these tangible knowledge transfer assets would be in the form of completely indexed and searchable, thoroughly annotated step by step instructions (along with answers to frequently asked questions) for every task, responsibility, and project. The importance of creating knowledge transfer assets is even greater when you do not have the opportunity for brain-to-brain transfer, if there is insufficient overlapping employment of your departing superstar and his replacement.
In addition to making good use of the long goodbye, among the other best reasons to make certain that your departing superstars leave on the best possible terms is that they are likely to be valuable players wherever they go next and throughout the rest of their careers. If this person is a superstar working for you, why wouldn’t she be a superstar wherever she goes? Why wouldn’t you want to be on really good terms with her? Who knows, maybe she might become your valued customer in her next career? Or a valued vendor? Maybe she will come back someday and be a valued employee once again, having gained the training and development resources of another employer in the meantime?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), , and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website www.rainmakerthinking.com.