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When Your Superstar is No Longer So Super

What can you do if you realize the talent you bet the house on is not worth the money anymore?

That might be a question Pat Riley, president of the Miami Heat, asked himself as he watched his supposed mega-star LeBron James pull a disappearing act in the NBA Finals.

Ever since last July when LeBron somewhat fatuously announced on national television that he was "taking my talents to South Beach," the hype to win a title has been building. It was LeBron and his entourage, backed by legitimate stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, who promised to deliver multiple championships to Miami.

While falling short in one year should not be the end of anyone's career, LeBron's lack of productivity when the heat is on â€" pun intended -- shows that he is not the player his fans and the media hyped him to be. A star yes, but a transcendent one like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or Michael Jordan? Absolutely not.

When the game heats up, LeBron melts. He is 2-8 in the ten NBA Final games in which he has played. Worse, this year he faded in the fourth quarter with less than a handful of points per game. So what can Pat Riley, as president of the Heat and a five-time NBA championship coach in his own right, do?

And what can you do when your own star performer suddenly loses his luster?

Ask yourself these three questions:

What is the upside to keeping him on board? Talented performers are the spice of every organization. It is not merely that they are good at their jobs. They deliver exponentially, that is, they deliver in multiples â€" ideas, productivity and results. And often they do it with ease. But the upside lasts only as long as the star shines.

What is the downside to keeping him? Just as stars perform well, when they fail, they often do so spectacularly. Often their performance carries the team and so when star slips, the team does, too. Also, there is the issue of maintenance. The effort managers must expend coddling star talent can cause discord in a team. Less gifted, but still productive, employees resent the favoritism bestowed on the superstar.

Is this situation going to change? You need to evaluate the performer's resiliency. Eminent leadership authority Warren Bennis has written that successful leaders he has known had faced hardship and emerged better for the experience. Many superstar performers have fragile egos; one setback â€" a failed project or a denied promotion â€" can set them back forever. They may never recover. Such people are talented but they have not learned what it takes to succeed when the odds are stacked high.

LeBron James, as gifted a ball player and advertising pitchman that he is, has yet to show that he has what it takes to be winner. So if I am Pat Riley, I would make a decision (suggested by some) that will tilt South Beach into the ocean.

Trade him!

LeBron has proven himself to be a no-show in big games, but he is still highly marketable. Use LeBron as bait to get a less famous but more capable player who can meld with his teammates the way that LeBron has not.

Want to know more about handling star performers who fall from grace? Watch this:


image courtesy of flickr user, Keith Allison