Investing In Your Most Valuable Resource: Your Staff

As a manager of a nature center, it is easy to get caught up in the daily interruptions, challenges, and projects that seem to come out of nowhere. Our plates are full between managing staff, volunteers, facilities, programs, animals, visitors, trails, kiosks…the list can goes on. It is so easy to push aside the less urgent but most important aspect of our jobs: effective leadership of our staff. Yet when we take the time to cultivate relationships and empower the people who provide programs for our patrons, we are truly investing in providing better services all around.

Some of the tools in my toolbox as a manager include:

  • Weekly one-on-one meetings with my direct reports
    • These serve to help me learn about what is going on with them, what they are working on, where they are struggling, and what they hope to accomplish. It’s a great time for me to provide feedback and help them work through problems to find creative solutions.
  • Development of short-term and long-term professional goals
    • It is easy to become stagnant and not work towards a higher vision when we get busy. I challenge my staff to set both short-term and long-term goals for themselves over the course of the year. We focus on SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  • Regular staff meetings
    • We discuss everything from general housekeeping, updates, program development, special event planning, marketing, etc. Getting the entire team together allows for the flow of ideas in a supportive environment. Everyone has a role during the meeting to ensure active participation.
  • Off-site visits to other nature centers/outdoor recreation facilities
    • The best way to get refreshed and learn new ideas is by visiting another facility. We try to do this a couple times a year. Each experience has been rewarding for the staff.
  • On-going training opportunities
    • One of my staff members came up with the great idea of ‘Each-one, Teach-ones.’ This is where a staff member can spend 15-30 minutes teaching the rest of the group a new skill, activity, technique, etc. We also utilize free/inexpensive training opportunities locally as well as from subject matter experts within the department.
  • Team initiatives and special projects
    • To keep them motivated, we pick a couple of big projects to tackle over the course of the year and split into teams. Each team has a leader who is responsible for keeping everyone on course, tracking a budget, creating a timeline, and presenting updates to the rest of the group.

I’m curious to hear what you have found works well (or doesn’t work) for you and your staff!


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