Written by Nanette Hebdige

“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things” ~ Peter Drucker

Now that you’ve secured that Estate Manager dream job, it’s time to realize that managing your staff effectively plays one of the biggest roles in the part.

You can run a household like a well-lubed, mean operating machine, but let’s face it, without having an exemplary domestic team in place, you’ll be like a like a dog chasing its tail. Recruiting talent is an uphill battle but making provisions to retain them is one of the toughest challenges that an Estate Manager or Chief of Staff faces. There’re no guarantees with staff, because the proverbial grass is always greener.

Hopefully these guidelines will prove useful to make you not only more efficient when dealing with your team, but definitely more respected as a leader.

WHAT KIND OF MANAGER ARE YOU? – The autocrat micromanager, the laissez-faire, the control freak, or the doormat? I hope you don’t fall into any of those categories, because at some point in our career we’ve had managers that deserve the Hall of Lame Award. Showing you’re frazzled and stressed will only demonstrate you lack in leadership. Your emotional and mental quotient will be tested daily, but it’s up to you to handle tasks with ease and composure, no matter how many balls you’re juggling or challenging the situation.

There are quite a few quotes from Maya Angelou I love but this one comes to mind “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”. So know the difference between being a good manager or a great leader by always showing the right attitude.

“Leaders inspire people to do something. Managers hold people accountable for doing something”

HANDS-ON? – You better believe it. If you fall under the category of the ubiquitous laissez-faire type, with a hands-off persona and without providing any guidance or leadership, you’ll definitely fail as a leader. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting your hands dirty, roll up those Armani sleeves and do what it takes by pitching in anywhere in the household. Besides, if you step down from your lofty pedestal it will certainly make you more user-friendly.

PLEASANTRIES – Don’t be afraid to make small chitchat, keeping it genuine, without being overly familiar. Get to know your team and their families – ask about them cordially. That simple gesture will earn you huge kudos. Don’t play favorites and ensure you’re bestowing the same affable attention and interest towards everyone.

NO WAY! DELEGATE? – Indeed. Don’t frown and think it’s such a radical concept. We all carry that subliminal ego thinking we can handle everything better ourselves. Without trusting that someone is able to assist you, it’ll reflect you’re an unbending micro-manager and a control freak. In a large household, you better develop confidence to know what can be delegated and the sooner you realize that, you won’t run yourself ragged. Since this typically stems from a trust issue, start small. Give someone a task and observe their capabilities to see if they’re proficient enough of handling even more responsibility.

“You can do anything, but not everything” ~ David Allen

UGH, NOT AGAIN! – Dealing with multiple personalities will make you think your office is a psychiatrist’s couch, as there will always be staff conflicts, disagreements and petty jealousies. Not everyone is going to get along. A manager can’t ignore those issues and conflict resolution is something we’ve all had to deal with and will have to handle again. Every situation will bring about your best Sherlock Holmes attributes. You’ll have to become a discerning listener, excellent judge of character and ensure your BS odometer is turned on.

CROSS TRAINING YOUR TEAM – This falls under that excellent delegating category and teamwork. If you don’t train your staff to assist you, who are you going to entrust to tackle simple projects? You can’t be in 5 meetings at once. Additionally, when you take that much needed vacation, you’ll feel more confident that in the 2 weeks you’re in Fiji, the household wont collapse in your absence. Team building is fundamental in a household and it plays a strong part when someone is a contender for a promotion, without having to recruit outside for the position. See, you’re already more efficient delegating.

DO YOU LEAD OR MICROMANAGE? – Your staff was hired to do a job, let them do it. There’s nothing worse than a nitpicking manager on a power trip. Solid and trustworthy employees are hard to find, so once they’re part of your team, ensure that you keep them happy and let them perform. Asking for their feedback is equally as valuable, as they may suggest a more efficient way of tackling tasks or looking to add a solution to a problem. By doing that you’ll instill trust and loyalty, so ditch the “it’s my way or the highway” attitude. In the same breath, if you’ve discovered a more efficient way of handling something, then suggest it without being pugnacious.

“Treat employees like they make a difference. And they will.” ~ Jim Goodnight

TIME OFF – Give your staff room to breathe. When they are off, give them the time they need to recharge their batteries and spend time with their families. That will make them look forward into coming to work and feel rested to perform.

BREAKING BAD HABITS – Gossip kills a household and it’s not acceptable. Anyone having the proclivity for being indiscreet and having a bigmouth regarding the principals or other staff should realize it can lead up to termination – those NDA’s and Confidentiality Agreements were signed for a reason and carry a lot of weight. The same can be said for personal calls or texting during work hours, unless it’s an emergency it should be nipped in the bud. Household staff should concentrate on their tasks quietly to be efficient. Being overly social, unless they are on their break, is something that a good manager has to curtail. Setting the ground rules from the get-go is as important as coaching and training.

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

OPEN THAT DOOR! – Do you have an open-door policy that shows you’re approachable to provide guidance and advice? Are you a fair observer, mentor and supervisor? Does your staff have a good comfort level to entrust you with any issues, even personal worries? Remember, your staff needs focus and motivation, and that’s one of the many reasons you are there. Rome wasn’t built in 1 hour, so these are qualities a solid manager needs to observe and practice to acquire.

ARE YOU A GOOD MENTOR? – Are you making yourself indispensable to your staff? Do you coach and train them? Nothing gets you more than “leading by example”.

LOADS OF PRAISE – Praise is as essential as constructive criticism. Just as you want your outstanding management and leadership skills to be recognized, your staff needs praise regarding their efforts, performance and demeanor. Your team is there to make you look good and in turn you have to show the same courtesy. Ensure you have regular staff meetings and during your walkthroughs observe who’s going above and beyond. You principals will instruct you if there are any discretionary bonuses or raises come yearend, so make it a practice to conduct performance reviews.

YEP, IT’S PERSONAL – We’ve all got personal issues we’re dealing with, and some carry more weight than others. Although personal matters should be left at the door when working, we’re human and it’s impossible not to have personal worries affect performance. Be observant and ensure your attitude reflects benevolence and kindness. By commiserating with your staff, it shows you have compassion and take their wellbeing into consideration. Your staff should have a good attitude, smiles on their faces because they value their jobs and enjoy coming to work.

“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected”

Not everyone was born a leader and managing staff isn’t a task for the weak minded. It takes strategic alacrity, moxie and sincerity to be a sage and respected leader. Realize that a good team is an extension of you and their performance and behavior are a reflection on your directives.

There will always be unusual dynamics and revolving staff personalities making your responsibilities challenging. Ensure you put these suggestions into practice, if you haven’t already. After all, you’ve invested time, resources and money training your team to observe specific household standards. Now that you’ve assembled a solid, reliable and dependable group, it’s up to you to ensure you’re putting forth the effort to retain and above all appreciate them.

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