Succession Management: How to Replace your Star Player

Tom Castley
Tom Castley
In Sales Coaching and Motivation, Sales Performance Management
Tom Castley joined Xactly EMEA in July 2014 to lead the growth of the company in the region. He has over 15 years of sales and CRM experience across leading cloud organizations and is highly renowned in the industry as a true customer experience champion. Tom spent 7 years at Oracle to support the expansion of its Cloud CRM business, and managed a struggling sales team, which he successfully turned around in a year. Prior to Oracle, Tom worked in RightNow Technologies, where he was responsible for UK sales across a variety of industries.

The latest Xactly Sales Performance League #XSPL blog from our UK team looks at a key issue found within every business, especially at the start of a new year. How do businesses manage the loss of a key player? We have taken examples from the sporting world where this has both succeeded and failed, and explore what business leaders can learn from them.

With only days left in the Winter 2015 transfer window, the biggest deal has seen Swansea top goalscorer, Wilfred Bony, moving to Man City for a hefty £28 million. Credit to Swansea for making a £16 million profit on transfer fees alone, but they don’t seem to have addressed the problem of who is going to step into Bony’s prolific boots at Swansea. The Welsh club can either spend big, or look internally for a replacement which will bring about changes for certain players in the team.

Recent form shows Swansea has suffered a lack of confidence as a consequence of losing their best player. A 5-0 loss at home to Chelsea, followed by being knocked out of the FA Cup by lower league opposition are not good omens for the team. Success breeds success and the opposite may happen if Swansea does not effectively reorganise the structure of their players.

Once again the world of business and football share similar attributes; both are results-based operations where failure to score your quota of goals and deals could mean a swifter route to the exit door. Clearly, the importance of clarity and transparency in goal setting should not be underestimated, especially when you are asking a player to exceed on past performance.

Clarity of role, alignment, and success are the three core aspects of competent objective setting. When a team member is replaced, it’s critical to understand the impact of the change on others. Any extra responsibility taken on board by the replacement player or employee needs to be realistic so they feel they are valued and have the tools to succeed. Every move the employee takes in new territory should always be aligned with the company’s DNA or organisational culture and match to the overall business mission.

Sometimes the best replacements are internal, Apple and Microsoft have had relatively smooth transitions for Tim Cook and Satya Nadella. In football, a successful case of change would be Southampton FC, which lost four first team players last summer but thanks to adapting the roles of existing players, who already understand the team’s mission, they are set for their best Premier League finish in history.

So what are your tips for dealing with the loss of a key team member? We look forward to hearing your thoughts in the #XSPL conversation on Twitter.


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Succession Management: How to Replace your Star Player