HR 30 May 2017

What employers can learn from the departure of Chelsea captain John Terry

John Terry left Chelsea Football Club after 19 years of service
John Terry left Chelsea FC after 19 years of service – but how do you go about replacing such an influential figure?

Writing for Business Advice, Nicola Britovsek, HR director at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services, considers what lessons small business owners can take from the recent departure of former Chelsea Football Club captain John Terry.

After two decades with Chelsea FC, John Terry is leaving the team. But as an admired captain walks out the door, how easy will the transition be for the club? And, are there lessons business owners can learn about how to manage the departure of a strong leader?

As soon as a company knows about a resignation, it needs to consider how much of the brand the individual could be taking with them.

Let’s consider John Terry – he epitomises what it is to be a true blue. He was captain for 13 years and the most successful for the club, his influence over the fans is second to none, and, of course, he has undeniable talent.

In the business sense, he is the leader that brings the best out in the team and exceeds expectations with his own work. But when that team driver goes, who will the team work for and how will productivity be impacted?

In the short term, business owners may notice a drop in productivity. The team has lost their motivator and possibly their mentor.

Often, a new leader may not be in place or have acclimatised to the new role, so the team is left to do what it should do best, whether that means scoring goals and defending titles or producing quality work and managing clients.

Employers need to manage this situation by keeping morale high and attention focused by recognising and rewarding the right behaviours.

The incentive itself, be it a gift, voucher or some other item, must be something the recipient will value – taking into account individual preferences and lifestyle.

This approach will also help to retain staff who may fall victim to the “grass is greener” syndrome once word gets out about their manager moving on.

Longer term, an employer must decide how the role will be filled on a permanent basis. For Chelsea FC, Gary Cahill has been prepped and tested to fulfil the top spot, ever since it was clear JT would be moving on. Cahill has the “Chelsea traits” that made John Terry a player’s player and a fan favourite. He will be expected to embrace the team culture that Terry leaves behind and continue to strengthen it.

In business, a change of management could mean a welcome change of culture thanks to a new person’s perspective and experience – or a mission to capture the essence of a team and retain it.

Either way, the solution should be aligned with the company’s corporate goals. What sort of leader will work best, with the team, to strengthen it? Would hiring from a different company, or even sector, offer employees more in the long run? It is a decision that must be strategically thought out and all options considered.

As the new leader, it is essential to listen to the existing team, even if you were once one of them. They will know what works best, and similarly what doesn’t. They will also know what they like and don’t like, which can provide an opportunity for reform and change if necessary.

In order to understand a new team and build a strong relationship between the players, communication is key.

Focusing on this area will enable a healthy exchange of ideas, which will help employees to understand the new leader’s place in the department and subsequently where they fit in the department as individuals – improving the likelihood of scoring business goals!

Ultimately, good leadership empowers team members and encourages good behaviour, which in turn increases productivity and efficiency.

In any business, the most highly motivated employees tend to be the most productive, which is why employee rewards and incentives during a period of change are so vital.

Reminding employees what the business stands for and their role in its future will spur each player to give their all – whether it be on the pitch or in the office.

Nicola Britovsek is HR director at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services

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