Earlier this year I wrote about outcomes a team is able to generate because of effective leaders and value a team is able to deliver despite ineffective leaders. Committed leaders can inspire a team to accomplish things they never even dreamt of and a committed team can sometimes deliver amazing results despite having an ineffective leader. I have been a part of both scenarios and variants thereof. No matter the dynamic I have always done my best to be a contributor to positive outcomes. That is to say that I don’t want my teammates to feel as though they have to compensate for my weaknesses and instead benefit from my strengths. I want greatness to happen in part because of my contributions, not despite my ineffectiveness. But what happens when you are no longer present to directly contribute to those positive outcomes?

On any team, there are people who are committed to doing their job and many of them are committed to doing far more than their job. They do more than their job because they care deeply about the team. At times they are sometimes compensating for a teammate who may not be doing their part, whether it be ability or interest. I know many of these people. In fact, these are the teammates I value most. I call them “Because of Us” Teammates. Amazing outcomes are generated because of these teammates. Their extra effort ensures we succeed as a team despite any misaligned effort of those who are falling short. We should all want to “Because of Us” Teammates. Or should we?

As I take stock of the “Because of Us” Teammates with whom I have served over the years, I note that one of two things happen when they move on. The most detrimental result is a Doing Void. That is to say that the unique value that individual was ensuring the team delivered disappears because no one else is either capable of or committed to picking up the torch. The result leaders hope for is best represented by the Next Man Up mentality.  That is to say that because the entire team is collectively committed and capable there is no void, but another teammate eager to pick up where the recently departed left off.

In my current capacity, I can point to many things that are happening because of a particular group of individuals who are doing far more than their job and/or execute their HOW in a way that focuses far more on delivering value than blind compliance. They inspire me and yet they concern me. They inspire me for obvious reasons and they concern me because I wonder what is going to happen when they move on. Will they inspire others to emulate them? Will they coach others so the Next Man Up mentality is commonplace? Or will the team go back to the way things were as Doing Voids reveal themselves like holes in a bucket?

We should all position ourselves in ways that allow us to know good things are happening because we are present. And we should be coaching our team in ways that greatness will endure despite our inevitable absence. I firmly believe a leader’s contribution cannot be measured until long after they depart the team. As I get ready to leave this one, I look forward to assessing the effectiveness of today’s team by the contributions of those who will be doing our jobs in five years. And as good as they are, I sincerely hope that each of my teammates will have outgrown their current jobs five years from now…for their sake.

  • When you stop doing, is there a void?
  • How are you cultivating a Next Man Up mentality across your team?
  • Are you more focused on tactical success or strategic significance?