It’s Spring! We know that in the Northeast because I can finally get to the Christmas ornaments that have been stuck in the ice in the front yard since early December. Spring brings us a feeling of relief, a comfortable fullness that better things are on the horizon. Slowly but surely we start to see “summer things” making an appearance. Motorcycles, convertibles, bikes and flip-flops. In our house, we box up the hats and gloves and relocate them to the basement. We usually hesitate a bit; we’ve been burned by an Easter snowstorm before.
For me, one of the most important rites of passage each spring is Baseball’s opening day. I have been a Red Sox fan my entire life. Yes, even through the consistent years of last place finishes and heartbreak losses. I know the name Billy Buckner well and it still causes a sharp pain in my gut. (If you don’t know that story, consider yourself lucky!) I usually dedicate the day to my team. I make sure my schedule is clear and I am parked on the couch with some wings in time to see the “pre-game” festivities.
This year was no different. It was a gorgeous day in Boston from the looks of it and Fenway park looked magical. Each year, some historic player emerges from the Green Monster to throw out the first pitch. This year is was a collection of the Super Bowl Champion Patriots, led by Robert Kraft and Tom Brady. They carried the 5 (yes, 5!) Super Bowl trophies and did a fine job of honoring the day.
The Sox won that game and we are now 6 games into the season. We are 3 – 3 and they have been struggling with illness throughout the clubhouse. The team looks good and spirits appear to be high. I however haven’t been able to shake the feeling that something was missing. It was only during the game yesterday afternoon that I noticed what it was. He’s gone.. he’s really gone.
As I mentioned, I have been a lifelong fan of the Sox and I have seen great players come and go. Jason Varitek retired a few years back and that was hard, but it feels like the loss of David “Big Papi” Ortiz, is gonna leave a mark.
Ortiz joined the Red Sox in 2003 and by year two had established himself as the go to hitter when we need results. His 14 years with the Sox have truly cemented his place in Red Sox history as one of the greats. By announcing his retirement at the beginning of the year last year, fans, such as myself, had lots of time to prepare. It didn’t help.
Now we find ourselves without. Without the big smile, without the devastating bat and without his energy. I know, we’ll get by, but this emptiness got me thinking. What does management do to replace him? How often are we, as leaders, faced with the departure of a key employee who “knows everything” or is the “go to person” for a project. It can be easy enough to prepare, and we can even find someone with a similar skill set to replace them, but how do we deal with the intangible loss in the office.
The first step in this scenario is planning. Take a look at how you are grooming your employees. Do you have some redundancy built into your programs? Are you prepared if that employee leaves suddenly due to accident or illness? Do you spread the social or morale events around?
Be careful not to set precedent. Make sure that the sendoff is appropriate. If your employee is well loved, but has only been there 4 years, keep that in mind. What happens when a more senior employees leaves after 10 years. Do you have to up your game?
When it comes to the aftermath of a change, another thought is to have a staff meeting on the first morning immediately following the departure. Identify publicly who has taken responsibility for the myriad of projects your employee was working on. If you can get a handle on what social items the employee worked on, share that too (was he the birthday list collector? Did she know everyone’s work anniversary?)
Finally, be prepared for a period of emotional turmoil. It’s only natural that a team will go through a transition after a team member leaves. Don’t expect the new person to fill all the gaps. Look for those other employees who have been eager to step up. Let them know you are confident that they will do great. Inspire.
I have no doubt that the Red Sox will have a great season and that the management has created a lineup that will succeed without his bat. I know that in time, the players will bond and become a strong unit. I am also confident that your company will succeed without that awesome employee. Take some time now to prepare and don’t get caught off guard.
Now stop reading and go celebrate spring. If you need my help, don’t hesitate to call!