Maintaining Focus in Light of Losing a Rock Star Teammate

Five leadership recommendations for small business owners


At one point or another, we’ve all faced this situation: a rock star teammate leaves the company.

Whether it’s due to unexpected events your business is forced to react to or an employee has found another opportunity that aligns with their interests, the sting is no different.

This will inevitably happen a handful of times along the rollercoaster ride that is growing a startup or small business. It is a trying time for employees and business owners/founders.

Employees will feel a hit to morale, potential uncertainty or maybe even feel the need to re-evaluate their current standing. If it is an immediate team member, there’s potential for disruption to workflows or shift in workload until a new hire is brought onboard to fill the void.

Owners feel the sting as well. But beyond that is the onus to keep morale up across the rest of the company. Culture is such a critical part of any company, in particular for those still in the early stages. Managers and leaders must focus on motivating and energizing the broader team during the transitional time.

Let’s take a look at a couple things to keep in mind if you face this scenario in your business…

As a small business owner keep in mind these five leadership recommendations:

1.   Recognize the Impact

Seems obvious, right?

It is, but still important to note! Whether the person has been there six months or three years, take the time to recognize and applaud their impact and contributions. Use your 1-on-1 meetings as an opportunity to do it personally, then look for time in a team meeting and a company all-hands meeting (if done regularly) to acknowledge as well.

2.   Communicate and Inform

Folks immediately impacted by the transition will likely be aware early. But what about the rest of the company?

How and when you inform everyone is a key consideration. Most employees will likely want to share the news with certain teammates 1-on-1 before it’s shared broadly. Respect their preference and be prepared to communicate the upcoming change more broadly.

3.   Ask for Feedback

Hopefully, you’ve been asking questions and capturing feedback from your team in prior 1-on-1 meetings.

Things going well, opportunities for improvement, ideas to boost culture, etc. If not, you should be!

Also look (and be open) to any constructive feedback – what could you or the leadership team improve on? Was there more information or insights they wished were communicated more frequently?

What other training and/or development opportunities were they looking for?

For employees who have been there since the early (or founding) team, they’ve likely seen the company go through its share of ups and downs and have valuable perspective to share.

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Daniel Nieves
Dan is Chief of Staff at, a video review and collaboration platform for the creative community. Prior to, Dan headed up Market Engagement at Zinc, an enterprise startup transforming how we communicate in today's mobile workplace. Before his time in startups, he spent four years at Deloitte as a strategy consultant where he helped clients transform their organizations through the use of digital technology. Dan graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University Maryland. Born and raised in New York, he recently returned and is now residing in Manhattan.

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