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Manage a growing staff

What to do when you wish you could clone yourself

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in Leaders & Managers,Office Management,Workplace Communication

Congratulations. You’ve built a nice little empire, but there’s a catch: You’re expected to coach employees one-on-one, “be there” for them when they have problems and mediate an ever-growing series of turf wars.

You wind up putting out fires all day, not coaching or leading. You’re spread so thin that you rarely have time to praise fine work, ask smart questions or serve as a sounding board for ideas.

Use these tools to strengthen your presence:

Rotate private meetings. Meet with each employee at least once a quarter for an hour. Don’t set a rigid agenda. Chat freely about work and show interest in the individual’s concerns, ideas and observations.

The best way: Host a breakfast one or two mornings a week. You can usually hold more relaxed conversations before the work day begins.

Jot notes. A one-sentence handwritten card to an employee is a quick, easy way to make an impact. Scribbling “great job” or “I admire your hard work” can motivate employees in surprisingly powerful ways. Warning: E-mail isn’t the same.

Stay accessible. As crises erupt, it’s tempting to hole up behind closed doors. Try to devote at least 10 minutes on either end of the day (say, around 9 a.m. or 5 p.m.) to make the rounds among your staffers.

You don’t need to interrupt, especially if they’re on deadlines. Your goal is to be visible in case they need to speak to you. When you stop and ask how it’s going, it gives them an opening to discuss problems.

Extract information. Don’t waste the limited time you have to chat with employees by giving do-this, do-that commands. Insisting that they think or do their work a certain way and then walking away can alienate them.

Instead, let them direct the conversation. Ask open-ended questions such as “What are you working on?” so they’re free to raise concerns.

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