Leadership Lesson from the LA Lakers

Leadership Lesson from the LA Lakers

We lost a couple of employees last year, and I didn't deal with it very well. I've been writing this blog post in my head since then.

Losing employees sucks! It’s the hardest thing for me. I take it personally. Very. Personally. We’ve both put a lot into the relationship. We’ve gone to battle together. We’ve faced the most formidable (and pleasant) clients together. We’ve pulled late nights on projects, broken naan at our favorite restaurants, exchanged gifts at Christmas and disagreed over spaces or tabs. And when you leave? It hurts!

I don’t know how to act when you walk into my office to give me your 2-weeks’ notice. I’m not happy we’re having the conversation, and I’m not happy to lose you. Emotionally, I’m a little disappointed in you for leaving, but I’m more disappointed in me for letting it happen. I’m sure my conspicuously sulky expression is speaking louder than my artificially excited, caught-off-guard verbal nonsense. Where did we go wrong? How could we have avoided this?

I’m an NBA fan, and last year I learned a valuable lesson from one of the greatest franchises in sports history. It was April 9th, 2019, right before the last game of the regular season, when Lakers icon Magic Johnson, then President of Basketball Operations, unexpectedly resigned from the team. He didn’t give a 2-week notice, his timing was awful, and he didn’t even have the guts to tell his boss in person. He resigned through the media in an impromptu press conference right before that night’s game saying, “Somebody is going to have to tell my boss, because I know she’s going to be sick.” (Funny, I know the feeling.)

Magic Johnson was a 5-time NBA champion, 12-time NBA all-star, 2-time NBA MVP and an all-time Lakers legend in one of the team’s highest offices. No doubt, his resignation sent shockwaves through the organization and dealt a very personal blow to his boss, Jeanie Buss, President and part-owner of the team and lifetime Lakers Girl.

After hearing the devastating news through the media, Jeanie and the Lakers organization delivered one of the most graceful responses to losing an employee I could possibly imagine. It read:

“There is no greater Los Angeles Laker than Earvin Johnson. We are deeply grateful to Magic for all that he has done for our franchise – as a player, an ambassador and an executive. We thank him for his work these past two years as our President of Basketball Operations and wish him, Cookie, Andre, EJ and Elisa all the best with their next steps. He will always be not only a Lakers icon, but our family.”

Jeanie added:

“Earvin, I loved working side by side with you. You’ve brought us a long way. We will continue the journey. We love you.”

To all the employees who have worked with me and had to turn in the dreaded 2-weeks’ notice, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am forever grateful and honored that you would choose to spend a season of your career with me. I love and appreciate you as a person and respect the work you did while we were together. I have loved working side by side with you. You will always be not only an employee and colleague of mine, but my family.

Photo cred: Michael Tipton


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