Managing your relationship with staff, Part I by Jamie LaRue

A key relationship for directors is staff. There are at least two dimensions: managing relationships with direct reports (an administrative team, if the staff is large enough to have one), and with the larger culture of the organization itself. This post will concern the former.

The purpose of an administrative team is to make good decisions. To describe that process, let me outline the arc of a perfect meeting. It answers five questions, in this order:

Why are we here? The first step of a successful meeting is deceptively simple: what is the problem or issue that brings us here today? That statement doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be specific, and based on evidence: “our problem is that our first release popular DVDs are being stolen. In fact, the theft rate has risen to 35%, within the first week of our putting them out.” What makes this process deceptive? Not everyone can boil down the real problem, and there are many false trails. The problem is not that DVD’s are popular with teenagers. The problem is not that some parts of the library are invisible to cameras.

What might we do about the problem? This is the power of brainstorming: unleashing the collective insight and knowledge of a team. At this phase, wild ideas are ok. (Biometrically activated lockers!) Sometimes the right solution requires some lateral thinking.

What should we do next? At this phase of the meeting, the team is looking for low hanging fruit, things that can be done immediately or with relative ease. (“We can try locked cases at one of our branches for not much money….”) Or it may find that the radical solution is the only one that makes sense. But the idea is this: narrow those brainstormed ideas to the things that might actually make a difference and are actionable.

Who is going to do what by when? A key related question to making assignments: Do they need any resources to accomplish it?

When do we meet again?

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