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Managing Staff and Working as a Team

Mary Pink's picture

What have I learned about managing a staff? After eighteen years in this industry, I have learned a great deal. Here is a sample of some tactics I have utilized to manage staff.

Team Work and Communication

One of the most important things I have learned over my time here at Iowa State is to how to manage my staff as a team. Managing my staff as a team has been one of the pieces in winning the 2012 NACMA Marketing Team of the Year. Communicating the goals and including everyone as we progress through the year are two key ingredients in building a successful team. I want each staff member to feel that they are a vital part of what we do in this department. One way I do this is to conduct a marketing staff meeting each week where staff members give updates but also ask for feedback on my projects as well as theirs. Everyone including myself is encouraged to share openly and honestly about their opinions on anyone’s projects. There have been times where I will change my mind on the direction of a project based on the feedback of a staff member or several members. It is important to challenge one another to make a project better. Staff members check their egos at the door because they know the importance of improving our department. The staff has even made their own decisions against my opinion. The belief is that not only does my staff feel more a part of what is going on but they also see that they are a stakeholder in making this department better. Each staff member may provide a unique perspective that may change the direction of the project. In addition, I also schedule one-on-one meetings. Each staff person is asked to bring in a list of items that they want to discuss. Here is a chance not only to continue the communication, but also get to know that staff person. I ask both personal and work related questions. This has been beneficial in getting a true sense of how someone is doing on a personal level. They also see that I care more about them than just someone who works in the department. Communication and team work give me the opportunity to continuously learn from my staff.

Building on Strengths

Another skill that I have learned is that each of my staff members brings something different to the table. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses, as do I. What really helped me uncover their strengths and learn to apply them was a book called, Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. The theory behind the book is that managers and employees spend a lot more time trying to fix shortcomings rather than developing strengths. The goal through an assessment is to look at and develop your top five strengths. Each book contains a StrengthsFinder assessment online test, personalized guide for applying strengths, a detailed listing of your top five strengths and how to develop your strength as well as work with other’s strengths. I had each staff member take this test and it was fascinating to see their results. Once everyone on staff completed the test, I had the results compiled and shared. We met and discussed our strengths and what we thought about them. The top five strengths of each person fit them perfectly while also providing a better understanding of that person and how to work with them. For example, one staff member’s strengths is ideation (who has been working with me for 13 years). This means that he is very interested in analyzing an idea and seeing it from all angles. So now, many times if I get an idea, I will go talk it out with this staff member before proceeding. He helps break down the idea and give me a different perspective. This book has been especially helpful in building the team and looking at where each person is coming from.

Overall, it’s important to listen to your staff members, communicate with them consistently and build on their strengths. After working many years in this industry, working as a team and communicating are keys to successfully managing a staff.

Mary Pink
Associate Athletics Director for Marketing
Iowa State Athletics Department
Twitter: @maryzpink

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