Home CTO/CIO Setting Your Staff Up for Success

Setting Your Staff Up for Success

by Dr. Bruce Ellis

While we all want our staff to succeed, we need to admit that there is a major role that we play in making that possible. By doing (or not doing) specific things as leaders, we can inadvertently hinder their ability to succeed. And, when you think about setting them up to succeed, many of the same strategies that we use for students will also work with our staff. Daniel H. Pink summarized it best when he identified the three things that motivate creative folks: “autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” Let’s take a look at how these might play out on your campus or team as you set them up for success.

Give Your Staff Members Choice

Just as with students, allowing our staff some choice in various decisions or activities can help build buy-in to the activity. Granted there are some things that may have to be assigned. But if the end goal can be accomplished by a variety of folks, why not let them choose who will take responsibility?

Differentiate Your Communication

Sometimes we get frustrated with our staff because they don’t fully understand the vision, goal, or reason why we are doing something. When I find myself in this situation and take a step back, it is usually because I have failed to communicate clearly and adequately with my staff. Unfortunately, I’ve never had any mind readers on my staff! If you  have a similar situation, then you might take a look at how you are communicating. To break it down further, think about differentiating how you communicate by considering the medium that you use. Some folks respond better if they have information in an email while others may not check their email regularly because they find texting their go-to method of communication. Still others may prefer the face-to-face communication that couples body language and tonal inflection for them to catch the “aha!” that you want them to grasp.

Provide Strategic Scaffolding

Whether you have new staff, staff that lack specific skills, or you are the new one to them, it might benefit them (and you) to think through how you can scaffold expectations for them. Those that need the additional support can take advantage of it while others that do not need those supports can bypass them, only taking advantage of fewer resources or procedures to meet your expectation.

Detail Your Criteria

Though you probably won’t have a rubric for folks to use that may be working on specific projects, it couldn’t hurt to write out your expectations in such as way that they understand what the minimum expectation is and what needs to happen to hit it out of the ballpark. With these, though, as with students, you need to review the indicators so that everyone understands what the various levels of quality mean. If not, you may find that everyone may share the same vocabulary, but have very different understandings of the definitions of that vocabulary.

Play to Their Strengths

You might consider doing some type of inventory with your staff to help them (and you) identify their strengths, preferences, and natural inclinations. There are a variety of personality tests on the Internet that are free. If using these, it is best to set the context of why you are providing the test and that there are not any right or wrong answers. Consider providing these at the beginning of the year as an ice-breaker or getting-to-know-you activity. You may find that putting these online in a Google Form can help everyone look at their (and others’) information. The better we know each other, the better we can support each other and move forward. Playing to each individual’s strengths can also increase the quality of their success and possibly connect with more intrinsic rewards.

Start Small and Build

Granted that you may have had a lot of expectations dumped on you that you are now expected to pass on. That doesn’t mean that dumping them all at once on your staff is the best way to go. While you may be able to handle it, you may have staff that find themselves overwhelmed and become shut down or distracted from the end goal, therefore unable to perform up to expectations. Consider how you can start small and add expectations as you go along. It’s like when you see a skilled juggler that is able to juggle seven sharp knives successfully; it’s good to remember that that’s not how he started. He most likely started by juggling silk scarves or just two small balls and then worked his way up.

So, whether you are an educator at heart or have a heart for your staff being incredibly successful, consider implementing these strategies. You might be surprised at the outcome! There are many other strategies that could be listed when brainstorming what you can do in setting up your staff for success. Jump in the comments below and add to our list. We’d love to continue the conversation.

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