When legendary actor Laurence Olivier was struck with appendicitis in 1967 before a performance of a Strindberg play, he had no choice: He had to rely on his understudy to take his place. What an understudy Olivier had.

Oliver’s replacement was a nervous young actor named Anthony Hopkins. Even though this was many years before “Silence of the Lambs” and his other hits, Hopkins easily filled the older actor’s shoes and enjoyed great success with the Royal National Theatre before becoming a movie star. Understudies are crucial in the theater—it’s critical to have people who can play the main roles. The same is true of any team; it’s important to have several members who are good at the same task.

When workloads aren’t spread evenly across your team, productivity and efficiency are bound to suffer—and your star performers will, too. Burnout is inevitable. It’s also unfair to deprive other members of the chance to learn a particular task just because your star performers are better at it. Find ways to tap into those star performers’ skills to develop and enhance the rest of the team.

Don’t concentrate important tasks on a few members of the team. Instead, leverage their specialized expertise so that everyone learns.  In the long run, this will boost your team’s sense of self-esteem and overall success, too.

Key Takeaways

  • Distribute tasks among the entire team, not just those with specialized skills
  • Enhance long-term productivity by having star performers mentor their colleagues
  • Reduce performance risk by collaborating and sharing knowledge
  • Rotate responsibilities to allow others the opportunity to shine in key areas


Looking for more project management tips? Read about “How to Build a Team of Spartans“.