While the world was busy watching the 201 4 FIFA World Cup Championship weekend, many Americans were going crazy over a subtle #decision by NBA superstar LeBron James to leave the Miami Heat and return to his home and home team Cleveland Caveliers. For those of you who don’t follow basketball, LeBron James left Cleveland just four years ago to link up with fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Four years and two championships later, LeBron is back in Cleveland and Miami is left scratching their head trying to figure out what’s the best next step to take.


If you don’t think this has a parrallel in the business world, think again. We live in a time where the average American spends four years in a given job.  At the same time, more and more companies face challenges with hiring to close skills gaps in the office and even more are silently stressing about (or even ignoring) the need for a solid succession plan. The immediate response for most companies is to go out and find a star player who can come in and make an immediate impact on the organization. Most of these individuals are knowledge workers who bring creative problem-solving and empowering leadership skills. But is it more important to hire big talent or create a stable business? Consider the following reasons why choosing a superstar might put your business make be great in the short-term but bad for longevity:

1) Star players want max compensation and can make salary-planning difficult for organizations working on a budget. Star players know their value and want to be paid what their worth – but is pay per performance always the best driver for success in an organization? In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Tom DiDonato says the following:

Performance reviews that are tied to compensation create a blame-oriented culture. It’s well known that they reinforce hierarchy, undermine collegiality, work against cooperative problem solving, discourage straight talk, and too easily become politicized. They’re self-defeating and demoralizing for all concerned. Even high performers suffer, because when their pay bumps up against the top of the salary range, their supervisors have to stop giving them raises, regardless of achievement.

One of the reasons why LeBron James left Miami is because he wanted a max compensation contract. Unfortunately, with two other All-Star players on the team, there just wasn’t enough money to go around. (Does that sound familiar?). If you pay based on performance and rely on high-performers rather than a strong systems approach to business, you’ll run the risk of your high performance (and high potential)  employees leaving you for greener pastures.


2) Star players are usually performers and not teachers. Is your corporate culture based on team-based problem solving or a more individualized pursuit of excellence? If you prefer a team-based culture then choosing to build your brand around one or two Super star employees could be prohibitive to the growth of your team. Unless your superstars are also great coaches and encouragers, you might find that a rift will exist between the upper echelon of your organization’s talent pool and the lower two-thirds. Kevin Kruse, NY Times best selling author and expert employee engagement consultant says the following about the importance of proper workplace coaching:

The entire idea of Feedforward Coaching is that it is a continuous process focused on future performance and career pathing—it’s not grading a year’s worth of past events; the manager serves as Coach, not Executioner.

One of the primary drivers of employee engagement is a sense of growth and development, and another is having a manager that cares about you.

Only time will tell just how good LeBron made the rest of his teammates and the same can be said when a superstar knowledge worker leaves your organization. If you want to make the most of hiring a superstar, make sure the coach and grow fellow colleagues so that your business continues to benefit from their presence after they’re gone.

3) What happens to your business when that star player is gone? If you’ve gotten this far in the article, you’ve probably concerned about protecting the stability and growth of your firm. So what’s the best way to be intentional about keeping things secure at your organization? Succession planning. Succession planning is defined as:

[A] process for identifying and developing internal people with the potential to fill key business leadership positions in the company. Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available.


If you’re relying on a LeBron James to take your business to new level, you’ll get there… But what happens when he’s gone? Make the wise decision to identify and groom future leaders within your organization and in pipelines like college internship programs.

Do you have any succession planning tips to share? Leave a comment below.