5 Things You Must Do When The Star Player Leaves Your Team (And they leave well!)

Every team has a star player. That one person that you, as the leader, know you can go to in order to get the job done. They are competent, capable, consistent and have great chemistry with the rest of the team.

You are thinking of that person right now.

Inevitably, and unfortunately, they will leave your team. They may remain with you for the long haul, but, at some point, if you stick around long enough, one of your star players will leave you.

I know, because this happened to me in recent weeks. I have endured the loss of 2-3 star players. All inevitable moves to other parts of the country or greater opportunities within the same locale.

If possible, you want to do everything you can to keep the star players around. Yet, sometimes they will move on. It is unavoidable.

For the purposes of this post, let’s assume they leave well. (Mine did.)

So, what’s next for you and team?

  1. Celebrate and grieve. Emotions are real. I know this is the touchy-feely stuff that can make us uncomfortable, but your emotions, and more importantly, the emotions of your team, matter. Celebrate the successes of your star team member. Do not be upset. Do not be angry. Do not be possessive. Basically, don’t be an insecure asshole. Your star player is not leaving you, he/she is moving on towards better opportunities. Be happy for them and celebrate them! Then… grieve. Do this privately, but grieve the loss of this team member. Don’t skip this step. You will never be good for the other members of your team until you grieve the loss of the departing team member. And, for goodness sakes, allow your team to grieve. Remember, they are not robots. And neither are you. Celebrate them. Grieve them.
  2. Communicate vision… often. This is key. The vision of your organization and team is never based around one person. At least it should not be. Keep coming back to the vision. Communicate the vision early and often. Remind your team – and organization – of why you exist and what you intend to accomplish within the next few months and years. Always keep your organization or team moving towards the vision. Communicating vision is the most important aspect of your job as a leader. Keep the your people’s eye on the prize.
  3. Look for the next star player(s) of your team. Every team member as a start player at every given moment. Some may not be as obvious as others, but they exist and they are right in front of you. Your job as the leader is find this person (or people) and refocus your attention to helping this potential star reach his/her potential. Look, it’s easy when you have a star player (or several star players.) It makes your job easier. But the real work for a leader begins when there is no obvious choice at the beginning. This is when the rubber meets the road and you prove your chops as a leader…when you can find and chisel away at the diamond on the rough.
  4. Move forward (with your people). When the team is ready, begin the process of moving forward. If your star player was truly a star – they were highly competent and had high chemistry with the other members of the team – it will be hard at first. But as the team becomes more ready, move forward. Accept your new normal. Embrace this new normal. INVEST IN YOUR TEAM. I cannot stress this enough. Invest in the team members who are with you. As hard as it is to admit, more than likely there were other team members you looked over as you placed a great deal of attention on your star player. Refocus that energy back to your team. They are present and, whether they want to admit it or not, they need you and they want your attention and your investment. Focus on them. Build them up. Encourage them. Bring out the best in them. Move forward…as a new team… together.
  5. Don’t look back. I love the old saying, “The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.” Simply put, this means the old monarch is dead and the new monarch is alive; we wish the new monarch well. When the star player leaves, leave him/her be. Don’t look back. Don’t wish for their return. Don’t talk about the good ole days. The “good ole days” were probably were not as good you thought they were. Leave the past in the past. As hard as this is, leave the past – and the people of the past – in the past. Keep your eyes on what is ahead of you. This ability to focus on the future is the mark of a true leader. A man/woman who is able to keep moving forward no matter the setbacks, disappointments or obstacles. This is true leadership. Keep moving forward.

It is hard to lose a star member of the team. Be grateful for the time you had with them.

Then keep pressing forward.

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