I’m a leadership junkie. I’ve always been extremely interested in why people follow the lead of certain others, both in the workplace and in everyday life.
Sports turf management, like any profession, requires solid leadership in order to be successful. It starts at the top with the head of the operation. It then filters all the way down to the crew, from full-time people to volunteer help. The fact is, strong leadership from crew leaders and managers will almost always result in increased productivity, safety and efficiency.
Leaders inspire people to achieve great things. This can happen in any operation, big or small. So, what goes into good leadership? Do you have a leadership void at your facility that you need filled? Here are some general tips that could help at your operation:
1. Have a plan. And a backup plan. And a backup plan for the backup plan.
You can’t always anticipate when things will go wrong. But having plans in place that account for almost any contingency make unpredictable situations easier to handle.
2. Keep documents, inventories and notes.
When managing people, it’s vital to document both good and bad incidents and behaviors, especially when it comes time for performance reviews. From a more tangible perspective, well-organized records can help you track the progress of your operation and prepare accurate financial statements and reports. How can you know what equipment to buy and when to do so if you don’t have a crystal-clear picture of your finances? Also, ground everything with data. Back up all your decisions, opinions and thoughts with hard, objective facts and evidence.
3. Leadership is more work, not less.
If you aspire to be a leader, understand that a leadership position should create more work for you, not less. Leaders lead by example. How can you expect someone to be inspired by you if you’re not the first person on the job and the last one to leave? (Depending on your situation, this may not always be practical or feasible.) The point is that if people see you slacking off, or not taking a job seriously, they’re likely to do the same. That’s the complete opposite of good leadership. Being a leader is a responsibility — expect and demand more from yourself than from your crew. A leader’s foundation is strong and unbreakable.
4. Set standards and practice equal treatment.
Say your top assistant isn’t using a piece of equipment properly — but this is the first incident for this person. The other members of your crew you supervise observe this break in protocol. What do you do? A good leader will reprimand the assistant and ensure the proper protocols are being used. A bad leader would give the assistant a pass, since that person is your best and it’s never happened before. It’s vital to treat everyone the same, regardless of skill, status or experience level.
5. Leaders live balanced lives.
We cover the importance of proper work/personal life balance often here at SportsField Management. This isn’t on accident. For the long term, leaders don’t let work, or their job, define them. They have balance in their lives. Family, personal mental health and happiness are always the top priority. Professional success follows from there. At the same time, leaders exhibit a passion and love for their job while on the clock. Positive attitudes are contagious. If you don’t love it, who will?
6. An eye toward the future is critical.
One of the more important traits for a leader, in my mind, is the ability to think one step ahead of everyone else. This goes back to having plans in place. But thinking ahead can also mean looking ahead. The future of a business depends on vision and a willingness to not become out of date or obsolete. Use this concept of forward thinking when hiring people or even purchasing equipment — how will this person/tool not only help me now, but three years from now?
7. Make your own copies.
The worst boss I ever had was someone who didn’t know how to do anything in the office. This person couldn’t answer the phone, use the computers or figure out the printer. Instead of bothering to learn, this person had their employees do it all. Especially at a small operation, this is the worst example of what a leader should be like. Have humility, roll up your sleeves and get dirty with your staff. Educate yourself. Step out of your comfort zone.
8. Know yourself and be honest.
Know your strengths. If you’re good at resolving disputes, step in and resolve them as often as possible. Know your weaknesses. If there’s something you’re not good at, admit it and work on it. Also, don’t make excuses. If you make a mistake, own it and don’t pass the blame.