In case you don’t already know, Lebron James is likely the best NBA basketball player – and leader – who’s currently playing (and some would argue the best ever to play the game, except for Amy Wolfgang who grew up watching Michael Jordan). So good in fact that he played a significant part in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ derailment after he left. Although it’s important to note that it wasn’t his fault, the importance of this situations documentation is worth us discussing. Look at these numbers:

In the 2009-10 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers had 61 wins and 21 losses (with Lebron)

In the 2010-11 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers had 19 wins and 63 losses (without Lebron)

The point is this, much like Lebron James leaving the Cavaliers, the leader(s) within your organizations can derail your company when then leave too. So, you must be prepared.

Maybe your team has its own Lebron James (a key leader). Maybe they:

  • They are the leading sales person (90% of the company’s business)
  • They know the ins and outs (Personally created multiple elements of the company)
  • They have influence (The entire team follows their command)

Each of these situations puts your company in an interesting, and even vulnerable position. So, how do you protect yourself if your very own Lebron James decides to leave?

Understand, before leader(s) do, why they would leave:

People leave organizations for a variety of reasons, some you can protect, and some you can’t. Thus, it’s crucial for you to make sure you understand why they would want to leave, and create appropriate roadblocks for your employee. Here are a few reasons people leave:

Their job becomes stagnant (not challenging / exciting)

  • Lack of recognition
  • Excessive hierarchy
  • They haven’t been invested in, just relied upon
  • They aren’t paid enough

Provide leader(s) with the right situation:

Putting your top employee (leader) in the right situation to keep them isn’t just about paying them well (or overly well). It’s about understanding who they are, and the specifics that will keep them engaged and encouraged in working for/with you. A few ways you may be able to provide them with the right situation include:

  • Give them more flexibility with hours
  • Ask them to lead / develop a team to transfer their skills to others
  • Engage them in leadership conversations regarding the business
  • Send them to conferences to learn more about themselves and how they impact teams

Prepare for the worst:

Guess what? You can do everything correctly and still lose your Lebron James (that has even happened with the real Lebron James, a few times). So, prepare for the worst. Don’t build your business solely around the anomaly of your best employee. Companies who put all of their eggs in one basket are destined to succeed and fail with that basket. However, it’s important to note that this is the third point, not the first. You shouldn’t be living in continuous worry of losing your top employees. Unless you are experiencing cultural issues, this should not be a common occurrence. Here are a few ways you can put the process in place to be ready if the worst were to happen:  

  • Have your top employee transfer knowledge / experience to other team members
  • Stick to the mission of your organization, not your lead employee’s
  • Save your profits
  • Invest in the future of your people (current and future employees)

Sometimes Lebron James leaves, and yes, it hurts.

But, with the correct approach, you can be sure to keep your top employees within your walls, while also building your organization appropriately should they ever leave. Organizations are never built solely off of one individual.

You don’t have to worry about leaders derailing your company if you’ve planned, invested, and built your company appropriately.


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