COVER STORY: Managing People- Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team

As featured on the cover and published by The Canadian Society of Club Managers in CMQ (Winter, 2015)

It’s obvious that people make the business world “go round”, and clubs are no different.  The complexity associated with people only increases when you enter the senior ranks, as club managers are typically faced with staff related tasks and relationships that include many components: recruitment, motivation, role definition, performance management, and broader supervision are only a few.  These areas must be considered specifically in terms of team members in senior level roles, which typically have a significant impact on an organization (positive or negative), more complex tasks, and a limited talent pool from which to draw candidates.  Perhaps, the result of this complexity is that the human resource aspect of a club management role often isn’t addressed as fully as it should be.

There is a lot that club managers need to consider and understand when it comes to dealing with staff members, particularly in terms of their senior team.  This includes knowing when action is required, in terms of hiring, firing, supervising, and simply providing support and giving people room to do their job.  Such an uncommon talent, of what to do and when to do it, can best be cultivated through personal awareness and practice, while keeping in mind the ultimate goal of creating a senior team that has the right skills and experience and well crafted roles, as well as a balance of support and direction.  Sound unachievable?  Think of it as something to strive for and an opportunity to seek out practical advice that can help to guide the process.

As discussed in the last issue, there are fundamental skills that successful senior leaders typically exhibit and consistently practice, in terms of the approach that is taken to fulfil their role on a personal level.   Here’s more about the why making a concerted effort to manage people well is so important at the leadership level.

Trouble in the Club

Like many businesses, clubs are busy places. When the list of tasks is longer than what can be reasonably achieved in a day (or a week, or a year), it’s human nature to focus on the areas that represent a “comfort zone” of where we feel most competent in terms of our ability to make progress.  This often doesn’t include human resource matters!

Human resource related responsibilities, such as recruitment, performance management, and coaching can be time consuming and often represent the proverbial “can that gets kicked down the road”, particularly in busy times.  There is considerable risk in this practice, in terms of both strong and marginally performing team members.  Too often, marginal performers are allowed to continue in their role (“he/she isn’t doing that badly…”), while the “stars” become frustrated by a lack of progress and obvious inequity amongst team members (and who can blame them? No one likes to have to compensate for a marginal performer).

The big risk, which is often surprising to leaders, is that their best performing team members will leave the organization, due to frustration, a lack of fairness, and better career options, leaving behind the marginal performers.  This is a disaster in the making for any club manager, especially when a reputation of not dealing with problem situations is created within the candidate pool of potential employees.  Not to mention having to manage a club full of less than stellar staff members!

Leading Large

Skilled leaders know how and when to take action when it comes to managing people and never let this important area slide.  They recognize that the rewards are many, including better performance that benefits the organization and an improved sense of fairness or equity within the senior team.  Here’s how to get the managing people aspect of a senior leadership role right:

  • Hire slowly, fire quickly. This advice might sound obvious, but, too often, it simply isn’t followed. Be sure to take the necessary time to fully understand the particular role that needs to be filled before undertaking the recruitment process.  Once this has been done, let the needs of the organization and the role guide the candidate recruitment and selection process.  Similarly, when a team member is not working out as expected, act on a timely basis and take the appropriate performance management steps.  Carrying a marginal, weak, or disruptive staff member doesn’t help the organization or the team.
  • Lead with quality, not quantity. Managing people effectively at a senior level isn’t about hovering or offering up frequent (but unnecessary) advice, it’s more about understanding the stage of development of each team member, their strengths and weaknesses, and when to provide support.  Empowerment, creating opportunities for tangible learning, and the quality of the coaching message are what matters.
  • State the obvious. Although some leaders might think that knowledge or information should be obvious or implied, people like to be in the know and understand what is expected of them at all times.  New initiatives, key results and targets, strategic direction, and opportunities to improve are all important areas to share with a senior team, so don’t keep them guessing.
  • See situations as they really are. It might seem hard to believe, but some leaders operate on the basis that if it is possible to resolve a particular problem, it will be done, regardless of the actual ability of the team member to do so. This dangerous practice is analogous to the “out of sight, out of mind” concept, so be sure that your expectations are realistic and identify areas where training and support are needed.
  • The sky is the limit. Experienced leaders recognize that when they are fortunate enough to have a real star on their team, they perform best by having the freedom to do their job, within organizational guidelines and policies.  These people consistently generate great results, are reliable, and will ask for assistance when required.  Let them do their job and don’t meddle, as a much better strategy is to use your time to work with team members who are not as savvy.
  • Recognize that a big part of a leadership role is coaching. At its essence, leading is all about assembling a team that can successfully execute on its business plan, to the benefit of the organization at hand.  Senior roles are less about doing the front line work and more about helping others to be successful in their role.  Making this a reality requires coaching, feedback, and support on an ongoing basis.

Leaders are often judged by the company they keep, and integral to this is people.  Understanding who your team members are, in terms of ability and developmental requirements, as well as what their role is puts you in the best position to support their success.  Don’t miss out on this important opportunity.

Jenifer Bartman
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Jenifer Bartman

Business Advisor| Speaker| Published Author| Former Venture Capital Executive
Jenifer Bartman
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