By Kasey Craven | , How the Loss of a Key Team Member Changes the Game

Team Work

Recently, I read an article in which Eran Baniel (CEO and co-founder of Israel-based sugar reduction company DouxMatok) discussed his company, and the concept that the final product is impacted any time you reduce or take out an ingredient. The same case can be made for the firing or loss of a key team member – there is an effect on your team. The article made me think about a theory I hear often – that people are commodities and are therefore interchangeable. However, that is simply not true in most cases.

Look at the New England Patriots this year, for example. Are they better without Tom Brady? It is hard to say what their record would be this year if he was still on the team; however, what I can tell you is that I do believe they would be at least a little better if he still was in Boston. Now on the flip side, are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers better with Tom Brady? Absolutely! Are the Lakers better with Lebron or without him? How about the Cleveland Cavaliers? How about the Miami Heat? While these may be extreme examples, office teams have some similarities to these sports teams.

I have been part of teams in which we lost team key member who did more than just production. One time we lost our “social director,” who was always great about getting us together for casual get togethers or main events (Super Bowl, Halloween, etc.). In hindsight, this helped build teamwork and trust in each other. In another instance, we lost our “accountability” person.  He was the one who always pushed us to be better, which helped keep our culture intact.  Sure, we hired people to backfill these individuals, and the actual duties of the position weren’t compromised; however, these intangible qualities were never replaced.  As a result, our team suffered, and our culture suffered.   

I have learned throughout my career that you make yourself indispensable by being the Tom Brady, LeBron James, or Michael Jordan of your team or organization. Most companies will recognize your talent if you are the star player in the organization. When the stars leave, companies end up lost trying to fill those shoes.

Most companies will post the job and expect these high caliber individuals will (1) be looking for a job and (2) read a circa-2013, plain, vanilla HR job posting and be excited enough to apply. Companies are great at making their products or services, but where they fall short is in hiring. All too often they push this to the back of the line. Managers are too busy to write up a job description, and they are too busy to interview. Management ends up shifting the responsibility to an already overworked HR team to tackle this for them. 

What ends up happening is a one-pronged search for the “right” candidate in which team members are haphazardly interviewing. All of a sudden, time has gone by quickly, and the candidate is needed yesterday. Therefore, the next reasonable candidate gets pushed through without enough consideration for their full impact on the organization. Those important, yet hidden, intangibles get buried in the rush to just find a body for the position.

So the next time you’re faced with loss of a key team member, take the time to evaluate who it is you really need to fill that role. It can make or break whether your team rebounds and goes on to succeed, or not.

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