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Well, panic, for starters!
Jokes apart, every team will face a time when a superstar leaves the team. And it's difficult. Being the superstar that person was, he/she surely took care of a lot of things in your company and they leave a big gap to be filled. But life moves on, and so should your company. A lot of work has to be put into filling that gap and adapting to the change. If you're faced with this problem, here are 5 things you must do to ensure that you move on quickly and smoothly -
Know that change could be good
Just because change is a constant, it doesn't mean that it has to be a bad thing. Sometimes, you have to burn down an entire field to crop new vegetation. The loss of a great team member could actually be the window that another player needed to flourish. In a good team, new leaders always emerge. It could also mean a change in team dynamics, which could result in a more favourable way of operations.
The knowledge that change isn't a bad thing allows you to see the positives. And more often than no, a positive frame of mind usually results in good things.
Sometimes, the leaving of a front facing employee will be known by a lot of people within and outside your company. Here's where you've got to be careful about managing communications. Internally, you've got to be as transparent as possible - this is assuming that there hasn't been an ethical shortcoming on the company's end. With respect to the outside world, have a uniform answer that everyone in the team can say.
Usually, the loss of a superstar is uncalled for. Project managers have a risk management plan which should cater for these things. Look for people within your team who can take up the role. See if you have to hire. Often a specialist role will require onboarding a consultant. Either way, you've got to reassess your roadmap given this massive change. In fact, this is really good as it helps you focus on the road ahead, instead of brooding over spilt milk.
Keep your team morale up
You will have quite a task in hand if your superstar was a popular cat. The departure of this team member will adversely affect the morale of your team. Go out on a team outing. Have a pep talk with your employees. Do something nice to keep their mind off the loss. A grand team lunch, bonding over a beer or something. The important thing is to instil a sense of reassurance among your team.
Often, you'll see that your countermeasure isn't as effective as your ex-employee. It will be hard, but don't think about it - it's in the past. Also, more importantly, don't talk about him/her, especially to the one who's replaced them. Each person is different and expecting them to fill this new gap is unfair. Give it time, be patient and trust in your replacement. They will come through in time.
How have you coped with such a loss before?