Sometimes if you scratch beneath the surface of a good team, you may find that team performance depends upon the efforts of one or two high achievers. That may be okay for the short term but what happens when one or two of those stars move on?

What does the manager do next?

First look to the team. Ask for the members of the team to step up. One or more of them may be your future stars. Here are some suggestions.

Face reality. Losing a star is different than losing a middle of the road performer. Stars pick up the slack as well as pace others. And as mentioned, they sometimes set the right example for others to emulate. Most importantly, they contribute more to the work flow, either in tangible terms such as sales or intangible terms such as teaching and coaching peers. A manager who ignores this loss risks losing the faith of those left behind. Be honest about the loss.

Invite suggestions. Ask others what they can do to pick up the slack. Hold one on one conversations with individuals as well as a group discussion with the team. Challenge the team to come up with three ways to make up for the loss in performance. Focus on specifics of what individuals must do. Improvements may include more training as well as hiring another person. But it also must begin with individual efforts, too. Don’t let individuals off the hook.

Make the opportunity real. Talk about how the loss opens the door for others to excel and in turn receive greater levels of recognition and reward. Make it clear that you are not looking for someone who does whatever the former star did. Rather compliment the talents of the people you have and ask them to find ways to do what they do best.True enough, just as cream rises to the top, good performers will find center stage. Soon enough one of your players, either from your existing pool or one who is added, will be become the new king pin. When that occurs, do not wait till she leaves before you take advantage of her talents. For example, assign her to spend time with an underperformer. Invite her to share her talents and insights with the other person.

This way you will be preparing the way for future high performers to make their mark now and in the future.

First posted on FastCompany.com on 9.29.10