Lost Your Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, or LeBron James? This is How You Prevent What Inevitably Happens Next

by | Nov 5, 2017

When you’re leading an organization, you set off to nurture the very best. But what happens when they leave?

Let me tell you, losing your key players could completely ruin everything you’ve worked so hard to build, unless you do this.

When I hear business leaders talk about their key objectives and how they are going to accomplish them, there is one important strategy constantly left out: retaining knowledge. It is the one thing that ultimately is going to prevent businesses from becoming irrelevant and dropping into the vast pool of commoditization.

The emigration of highly-talented individuals, otherwise known as “brain drain” can be devastating.

And, if you’re not heading it off, it could seriously jeopardize your business or organization.

It’s easy to see the impact of brain drain in high profile situations. Think about the Cleveland Cavaliers without LeBron James and Amazon without Jeff Bezos. Where did the championships and the innovation go?

Usually, in situations like these, the damage is irreversible. So how do you execute a strategy that allows you to retain and capture knowledge in your organization to avoid the debilitating effects of brain drain?

You need to follow these 3 keys.

Key #1: Information needs context to become knowledge

Your best players understand the context in which people and processes thrive inside your organization. What is the business environment like? How did a team arrive at that decision? Many organizations invest in elaborate knowledge management systems to capture and index facts and figures, but do not capture the context of each situation.

In order for data to deliver value, people must understand how the information was applied in the context of the business. To capture this value, I developed the PSAM framework.

The PSAM framework helps you both capture and share knowledge essential to your organization’s survival.

The acronym PSAM stands for:

P – Purpose

S – Strategy

A – Action

M- Metrics

P – Purpose

Purpose is what the team has agreed to do together. You all have an agreed upon a goal. The more committed everyone is to the shared goal, the more successful the team.

Perhaps no company has drifted as famously as Apple when it lost its star rainmaker, Steve Jobs. Apple simply lost its way and lost many opportunities to Microsoft and the personal computer in the roaring desktop market of the 1990’s.

When Steve Jobs returned, he famously cut projects and simplified everything. He knew what Apple was and could focus the energies of the company confidently around its mission: develop innovative and elegant products for the consumer.

With your team galvanized around a clearly defined common goal, it is then critical your team understands your strategy to reach your goal.

S – Strategy

Strategy is all about how the team will prioritize and align resources to drive differentiation. The best strategy answers the question “how?”, but also addresses the all frequently forgotten “why?”

A – Action

Actions are the specific efforts you make to execute your strategy. This is knowledge. The purpose and the strategy provide context for an employee to understand the “why” behind your requests for specific actions.

M- Metrics

Metrics are critical. They will allow you to measure how you and your team are executing against your desired outcome. Metrics answer the question: what is the desired impact for the knowledge I am applying?

The PSAM framework provides context upon which data and information can be shared in the form of knowledge.

Key #2: Culture 90 Strategy 10

The second critical component to building a knowledge-sharing network is to understand the importance of culture vs. strategy.

Culture eats strategy for lunch every single day.

On the basketball court if you’ve got culture playing strategy, it’s going to be 90 culture, 10 strategy.

You can talk until you’re blue in the face around the importance of knowledge-sharing, but if your team doesn’t accept what you are saying, it will quickly land on the dusty pile of other initiatives that never gained traction.

Culture means your team is sharing knowledge and improving on a daily basis instead of sporadically. Over time, you build an unstoppable momentum.

It starts with rewarding the development of teams. Too many organizations focus on individual bonus programs and reward individual performance.

Do you know what a good coach is measured by?

It’s not by their best player, but how much the last five players on the bench have improved in a year.

Formalized training programs have disappeared. In fact, many organizations now have no training budgets. Training must be a reflection of your commitment to knowledge sharing.

As a leader, you can begin making meaningful strides building a knowledge sharing culture by rewarding the development of collaborative teams and creating budget for and investing in training programs.

Key #3: What gets measured, gets done

And, what gets done determines who you are as a company. When it comes to knowledge sharing, you can keep track of how much knowledge is at risk with a simple formula.

Potential knowledge years lost = (How many employees) x (years at the company)

Use this equation to track the extent of your losses. The number is meaningless on its own, but when you begin to compare its cumulative impact over time you can see the extent of knowledge at risk.

One of the ultimate and easiest measures to track knowledge sharing is the participation of employees as mentors.

Mentorship programs should be part of the compensation plan for leaders, not simply a nice to do. Knowledge transfer and interactions between various generations of co-workers is essential to the company.

Be deliberate about the communications you conduct with your team. People have to find their own voice to communicate effectively. And this does not happen by accident.

Practice makes perfect. And, to become a great mentor, the same axiom holds true. Mentoring is a skill.

It’s not good enough to be an expert on a topic.

Mentorship is the ability to motivate learning by connecting with a person on a level they find important. Mentor programs must be a key business priority.

Knowledge Sharing Is More than Dodging the Drain-Brain Bullet

Knowledge sharing is more than a way to deal with the loss of the best performers on your organizational team. It’s your key to competitive differentiation.

When you weave knowledge sharing into your organization’s culture, you can raise team effectiveness dramatically. Be prepared to walk the talk. You can do this by investing in corporate training and mentorships programs, and by communicating the knowledge-sharing vision throughout your organization.

The result will be worth it.

And, your organization won’t be crippled if or when a star player decides to take their talents elsewhere.

As a leader, you have a unique role to play in selling the knowledge-sharing culture inside your organization. The greatest strength of a leader is not found in what they know, but in what they share.

About the Author

Joseph Bradley

Chief Executive Officer of NEOM Tech & Digital.
Humanist. Visionary. Galvanizer.