Three Tips for Managing a Staff

Teamwork! Communicate! Hustle!
These are just some of the directions I heard the coach of the local high school volleyball team yell to the players on the floor. I’m sure these are common instructions heard from coaches for all types of team sports, but are these simple and direct instructions exclusive to sports? Isn’t coaching a team a lot like managing a staff?

A strong team, both on and off the court, is comprised of committed individuals who each bring their own strengths and skills. It is a coach’s job to bring out the best in each player and fit them together like a puzzle. The pieces may need to be arranged differently for each competition, but a skilled coach will have a variety of lineups in their arsenal that will lead the team to victory.
A manager faces a similar challenge; the same staff of employees may not be right for every project. Getting to know each individual employee’s strengths and weaknesses allows a manager to arrange the right team for each new assignment. If possible, have a project strategy in mind before selecting the team. If the project requires strict deadlines, a tight reign on the client and a quick turnaround, then select the members who have a strong track record in those areas. At the same time, don’t overlook someone who has been showing promise in those areas. If an employee has really improved on their efficiency, but is not yet at the top of their game, challenge them with a tough task, but let them know you’ll be there along the way to help them succeed.

On the volleyball court, the players call the hit so as not to run into another team member; in basketball, the player’s communication helps them know what move to make next. This chatter is done both in practice and in games, so that it is second nature to every player.
In an office, you likely have scheduled meetings and regular checkpoints to track the progress of a project and keep everyone on point. But what about the time between meetings? It can be easy to overlook the simple, day-to-day communication that places you and your coworkers on the same page. Team leaders and managers should encourage employees to communicate with each other daily. Find a way that works for you and your staff, and lead by example. It can be a quick “huddle” each day or once a week; setting an alarm on your computer to pop into the cube of another leader for a brief five-minute update; or a Monday morning trip around the office to inquire what each team’s plan is for the week. Make sure the communication is happening each day, not just at the scheduled meetings.

In sports, sometimes the player or the team with the most hustle gains the upper hand in the game. A tired player has to dig down deep to find the mental strength to keep pushing their bodies and hustle after the ball, and ultimately the win.
In the working world, “hustle” carries a negative connotation; it is associated with being swindled or cheated out of something. Not a trait you want in an employee. However, an employee, who is motivated, works hard and strives for more is an asset to any team. As a manager, you have to keep both the hardworking employees and the average employees motivated. Identifying what drives each individual can be time-consuming if you have a large staff, however, rewarding employees for their efforts and work, no matter how basic it may seem to you, can make a huge difference to them. Start with a few general concepts, such as more public praise and recognition, a chance to leave early on a Friday, or a gift card to a local coffee shop or deli. Let the reward fit the effort and watch their reaction as it may provide insight into what moves them to keep improving. Of course, if you really want to know what motivates an employee, just ask them. You may not be able to deliver 100%, but you can adapt it into something you can provide and shows you were paying attention.

In sports, the coach accrues the victories each year, team after team after team. The players make the coach look good and are a reflection of the hard work put forth to lead them. As a manager, your staff makes you look good, so take the time to make them the best staff you can.

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