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How to Have People Ready to Step Up and Step In When Needed

Football. I know, not everyone follows football, but every winning football team embraces the, “Next Player Up” philosophy. They have to because injuries, poor performance, or personnel moves means backups need to be ready to play at a moment notice. So let’s lean in and do the same for our team, too. (See, this isn’t really about football.) We lose people in the workplace all the time. They get sick, quit, move, are promoted, go on vacation, check out, or retire. The following list contains ways to have a smooth transition if that happens by having others ready to go when their name is called.


Keep a Depth Chart Know who you have on staff that is experienced or trained in areas where they could fill in when needed. If your main person goes out on maternity leave and the person next in line is on vacation, prepare an emergency back-up to fill in—someone who wants to learn and grow with experience. Look for holes and fill them by knowing your people’s aptitudes and abilities.

Create a Playbook If someone has to suddenly step in the first thing they feel is fear. To overcome their concerns, we should create a playbook for each position. This shows how to do things step by step. It troubleshoots potential problems and provides proven solutions. This way anyone can step in and know what to do even if there’s nobody there to show them. (This can also be in the form of a how-to video as well. Younger works prefer to learn by watching.)


Have a Plan B We should hope for the best and plan for the worst. We should play the “What if?” game. What if there is a natural disaster and half the staff can’t come in? What if there is a pressing deadline and it’s all hands on deck? Having already imagined the worst-case scenario and thought through what you’d do will give you ideas on how to be more prepared—especially for critical positions. Even better, run a stress test to see who can do what when the pressure (even if simulated) is on.


Hire For Versatility and Creativity We want to hire people who are solution-oriented, team players, and when possible, versatile. They say, hire the smile and train the skill. Meaning, we can’t teach people to be caring and compassionate, but we can teach them how to handle a specific task. Many younger employees want to learn new skills. If we can’t hire for versatility, we can create it.


Lead By Example and From the Front On the show Undercover Boss, the executives always learn a lot by working with the frontline workers—and the frontline workers learn from the CEO’s. If we swapped jobs for a day, polled our people about what they want and need, and showed them that when needed we can step in and do what’s needed (regardless if it’s below our pay grade) it goes a long way. When we “get our hands dirty” it sets the example we want others to follow.


Create a Culture of Teamwork People freak out when they see others being prepared to step in for them. The key is to make sure everyone knows this is best for the team… and the individual. If someone wants to move up the ladder, it helps if someone is ready to takeover when that time comes. It also means if a person wanted to take a sabbatical, long vacation, or went out on maternity leave, they could. The best teams have a shared goal and know that by working together they can accomplish more. Teamwork means people care. They care about the team’s success, they care about their teammates.

Knowledge is Power Having four generations in the workplace at the same time gives us a big opportunity for mentorships. Of course the veteran advises the rookie, BUT we should also have reverse mentors. Younger people can show their older counterparts a new and better way to do things and how to make the most of technology. The best leaders create other leaders and they’re open to hearing fresh ideas.


Keep Your Superstars Happy

Employee turnover takes time and sometimes requires three people just to replace one of our superstars. The goal is hang onto talent, while also preparing people to jump in just in case. It can be a potential pitfall to have one person with an oversized amount of knowledge and responsibility. However, it’s nice to have someone who raises everyone’s game by being the best at what they do. Make sure that person is recognized and rewarded, and that we also celebrate everyone’s successes.





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