Lessons I Learned in Politics: Managing Personnel

By Nick Hensley

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In business, the best asset you have is your people. Properly managing manpower is one of the most important tasks of any operation. A poorly cobbled together group, with no leaderships, is always doomed to fail. A crack team with good leadership will usually succeed – but not always.

Here are several rules for building and managing your team:

1. Find the right people – To build a team, you need the right people. You want to find a diverse group of motivated individuals. These people need to have a good skill set, experience, good references and a can do attitude. The perfect candidate should have all of these in abundance, but it is nearly impossible to find someone that is perfect, and it usually won’t happen.

So how do you find the right people?

You’ll have to use your best judgment. First find the people with the right skill set. Then narrow them down by looking at their references, and discard the ones that past employers bad mouth. Then out of those, find the one with the most experience, the best education and the best reference – that’s your person.

2. Find the proper role for your people – You can put together a group of people with motivation and skills, but if those individual’s don’t have skill sets that compliment the job, you’re in trouble. You can’t take a salesman and give him the job of a doctor. You can’t take a doctor and give him the job of a mechanic.

Each person should be paired with the job that best compliments their abilities. If you have someone that’s a likeable people person, and a degree in sales, that’s your salesman. The lady with a Masters in Business Administration and managerial experience, she’s your chief of operations, etc. etc.

3. Train your people – Your people should be trained to do their task. Even if they have the necessary skill set, your people have to know what your expectations are and the ends and outs of their responsibilities.

4. Work to build a community – A workgroup is a community. A group of solo-sharks are going to butt heads and fight, which gets in the way of productivity. As a leader, you’re job is to create an atmosphere where people can do the their best work. If you can mold your company into a family, you’ll find that their more productive.

5. Treat your people well – People are resilient, and you can push them to an extent, but if your expectations are too high, you’re wages lousy and your workplace abusive, you’ll have trouble maintaining the proper help.

Create high, but realistic expectations, and reward your people for reaching those expectations. If employees feel valued, their less likely to go elsewhere. If your expectations are too high, they will leave for an employer that causes them less stress.

Make sure that your paying your employees as much as your competitors, if not, your most productive employees will jump ship for the higher payout. This also includes benefits, if you offer 50,000 a year and your rival offers the same with healthcare, matching 401K and four weeks’ vacation, you’re going to have trouble keeping help.

Under no circumstances should you allow an employee to create an abusive atmosphere. Not only will employees leave, but you could find yourself at the wrong end of a lawsuit. Bullying and sexual harassment should not be tolerated, and offenders must be dealt with.

6. You must lead – You must lead, not manage. There’s a difference in the two. A manager pushes papers and a leader motivates his team.

I could go into leadership, but that’s a blog post for another day.

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