Goodbye Josh Hamilton: When Your Super Star Goes to the Competition

Josh Hamilton in a Los Angeles Angel’s uniform. Wow. As a Texas Rangers fan, that was a sight to see.Hamilton Jersey

In four years as a Texas Ranger, he was the American League MVP, an All-Star, the Homerun Derby winner and a hometown favorite, but now he’s in another dugout.

When Hamilton came back to Ranger Stadium for the first time this past weekend he was greeted by a neighborly chorus of boos and fans reading newspapers. He had been one of us, yet he shows up wearing a rival’s uniform. This is hard for fans to take – even if it wasn’t his choice.

There is much to talk about Josh Hamilton, his highs and lows – but we’ll save that for another day. But, what does a team, an organization, or a business do when the superstar exits stage left?

First, let’s back up and look at the situation before your superstar goes for greener pastures.

Keep their names on your mirror. For starters, you have to know who they are and remember them every day. This may seem obvious, but these critical people need to be top of mind.

And, they may not be the most senior, the highest paid or the most well-known. These superstars are the great performers who create the next design, attract and keep your best clients happy, or serve as the brains behind your new software. These are the people you do not want to lose.

It’s hard to keep them if you don’t acknowledge – to yourself and to them – just how important they are.

Plan their careers one by one. These people are critical for you and, as a result, highly attractive to your competitors. Their careers are one of a kind and must be planned accordingly.

Don’t assume that the group presentation on the new career model will check the box. They’ll need individual attention, conversations and clarity on what’s in store for them if they stay.

See the itch coming. These superstars will start to look around or take the call from the recruiter when things aren’t interesting, they aren’t learning or they feel under appreciated. Try to avoid this situation at all costs.

But, if you find yourself here, watch for the small but telling signs. They stop doing some of the things they used to do, don’t jump in to help and aren’t as engaged. In Josh’s case, it was pretty easy to spot because he started striking out a lot and dropping some fly balls.

If you move fast enough, you may be able to recover. But the clock is ticking.

Better have your back up plan ready. The truth is you need a back-up plan in your hip pocket for all superstars. The official name is a succession plan. But, know that great talent will have some big-time opportunities and, as a result, they are hard to keep over the long haul.

So, do yourself a favor and plan for the worst case scenario.  Find the apprentice, the great #2, and learn what your superstar knows. Murphy’s Law is pretty helpful in this case.

When they go, quickly move on to the next chapter. Superstars like Hamilton leave a hole in the lineup and the whole team knows it. They will look for reassurance and signs that it will all be OK – and that it might even be better.

It’s time to quickly build enthusiasm for the new organization. Bring in new talent, promote some new thinkers, make the investment or introduce the new strategy. Do what it takes to define the new chapter.

And, lastly, please try not to be bitter. That only makes it worse and keeps you stuck in yesterday. Maybe over time we’ll get used to seeing Josh in an Angels uniform. I’m working on it.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults. She can be followed @pattibjohnson and her company @people_results.

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