Whether you are working with a small number of staff that report to you or a larger group that you supervise, building capacity is an important skill. You may need to work on building capacity in a particular staff member due to a changing job environment. Or, building capacity may need to be done because your department is receiving additional work but without the addition of positions to take on the additional work. Here are three things to keep in mind when trying to build capacity in your staff.
Set Them Up for Success
Taking on new skills and the learning curve that goes along with it may be a frightening and/or frustrating task for your staff members. When possible, always try to set them up for success. They may not know how to break the skill down into manageable pieces, for example, so you may need to help model that aloud. Depending on the skill, you may also need to provide additional resources or training to help them become confident and successful. Put yourself in their position and consider what might be helpful in order to stretch…without breaking.
Have a Dialogue
Talk to your staff about the additional tasks and the need to grow and take on new skills. Having an open discussion can alleviate some of the fear that comes from encountering something new, different, or unknown. When possible, ask questions to find out what they think. They may have a completely different understanding based on their past experiences (or lack thereof). Open dialogue should not be constrained to a single staff meeting however; encourage the conversation to continue. Let your staff know that you want to hear their ideas. Though you may have no control over the growth that needs to take place, you do have a great deal of influence on how well they develop capacity to meet that need.
Set Realistic Expectations
When talking with a friend about building capacity in his team, he mentioned that he has a few people that can juggle six or seven major things, and he has one person that can only juggle four. No matter how much he wants the four-task-juggler to grow into a five-task-juggler, he realizes that it just isn’t going to happen. And the best thing he can do is recognize it and use it to both his and his staff member’s advantage. In doing so, he needs to set realistic expectations for each individual staff member. Just because you and I find certain tasks easy to juggle doesn’t mean that a another staff member will obtain the skill with ease. If we think back over our experiences, we probably had much more time (and resources) to build capacity in that area. With that in mind, consider how you can adjust expectations, but still arrive at the required destination.
The goal in building capacity in your staff is that you all come to work with the same (if not more) joy than what you had previously. If you will take into account these three tips, you’ll avoid many of the pitfalls that can end the joy and introduce despair.