LEADERSHIP IN SMALL SPORT ORGANIZATIONS

LEADERSHIP IN SMALL SPORT ORGANIZATIONS

Author: Margo Crawford, President & CEO, Business Sherpa Group

Leaders of sport organizations face all the complex challenges of leading in small organizations – limited resources, small teams doing multiple roles, expectations to perform as an organization plus the added complexity of unpredictable funding resources and expectations around athlete performance.    While the choices and decisions are the same as larger organizations, the levers and dials to adjust in a small organization are limited.  Sport organizations must be finely tuned to respond and shift quickly to changing conditions; they must count on the small team to be pulling on the rope with the same effort and direction all of the time.  A key challenge is building amazing teams.

Building amazing teams in small organizations

So you have an urgent need for a new hire. Maybe your star employee has taken another job offer, or a period of growth has resulted in the need for more bench strength. Where do you start?

Small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) have limited opportunities to get it right when building a team. Overstaffing and poor hiring decisions can lead to distraction at best, and completely unravel a team or organization at their worst. Each new hire is critical, and so is spending the time and attention needed to find and select the right candidate.

Unfortunately, small organizations have minimal time to recruit new team members. If turnover happens, it may temporarily place the company in crisis mode to fill a key gap, with the focus often on hiring quickly rather than well. The typical response is to hand over the recruitment to an expensive recruitment agency, who will be motivated to put a bum in a seat quickly rather than find the very best fit for the organization.

There’s a better way. When you have an urgent opportunity to add a new team member, consider the following:

  • Slow down. Think carefully about the opportunity (vs. the crisis) of hiring someone new. Is there a different way to think about what needs to be done? Is there someone on your team who could take on new opportunities? Think about the future state of your organization and what types of skills might be needed. Use this opportunity to build capacity and not just replace the tasks that are being performed today.
  • What are you looking for? Make sure to properly define and describe what you are looking for, and avoid vanilla job postings. Think about what the organization needs, the purpose of the role, and the type of person who will fit well, both for the role and with your team in terms of skills, experience, character and competency. Spend time on this – the thoughtfulness you put into the description will speak to the top caliber candidate you are looking for.
  • Build internal recruitment capacity. Identify a team who will be part of the process to define, source and select candidates. Build a talent pool from your own job board and postings on popular job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed.  If your internal team is tapped out, consider enlisting  the support of experienced part-time recruiters to join your internal recruitment team and take care of the heavy lifting of sourcing and screening candidates.
  • Be Patient. Your next great hire won’t necessarily be available or show up right when you are ready. It may take 2-3 months to find the right fit, and rushing the process may provide temporary relief, but is ultimately can be the wrong move. If possible see if internal team members who can cover off on critical tasks in the meantime to give you some time, and let the process run its course.
  • Onboard well. Once you do find that awesome new hire, plan out a comprehensive onboarding plan. Don’t think in terms of the first day or week – rather think about the first 90 days. What do they need to know? Who do they need to meet? What are near term wins that will build confidence and allow them to become successful?  This near term investment in time to focus on your critical new hire will pay off dividends and allow them to hit their stride.

If you have an urgent need, now isn’t the time to wish you had done some long-term sourcing ahead of time. But, to make your next turnover easier, it’s a good time to start. Here are some tips:

  • Create a future vision of the workforce for your organization over the long-term. This should be aligned with your long-term strategy and should consider the business realities you face, both now and in the future. This will help define the critical leadership and operational roles that will be needed. It can also foster career growth opportunities for your existing team as they see opportunities to develop new skills and grow as experiences present themselves. Make sure to also consider opportunities that emerging technologies might offer in supporting key activities.
  • Always be in scouting mode. With the vision of your future state in mind, develop a long-term radar screen and use every opportunity to meet new people and future potential candidates to place on your radar. When you see talent that you may want now or in the future, keep these relationships alive, even if they never come to fruition. When you do decide to build up your A-team, you will have a list of potential candidates in the wings.

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