Two Players Can’t Wear the Same Number: How to Manage your Team

Jan 31, 2018, Written by Jim Miley

Manage Your Team

“Managing the people, that’s the hardest part.” 

Such a common sentiment from business owners. A large part of our mission at Crossroads is to ease the burden for small business owners so helping them lead, manage and coach their people is a hot topic around here.

Throughout the planning cycle, we work to identify opportunities, develop strategies, and create action plans to support our initiatives. Now we are accelerating as quickly as we can into a full sprint of execution. As business leaders analyze the team performance and work on improvements, managing the people nearly always bubbles to the top in our discussions.

Here I’m offering one of the most common mistakes to avoid in promoting clarity through managing your staff. Keeping the point simple, one person has to be ultimately accountable for and lead each action plan and each initiative. If it is not clear who that person is, it’s you.

Properly Delegate Accountabilities

When we work through organizational structures with clients, we insist on having “one person in each organizational block on the chart.” Meaning that there shouldn’t be two people with primary responsibility for the same set of initiatives / actions. You can have one person in multiple blocks but not two people in one block.

A very common root cause of non-performance is lack of accountability- “Who’s on first?”

While there are many contributors to weak performance, it often comes back around to a lack of clarity or agreement on who has responsibility for each piece of the plan. Business owners grow frustrated with their teams sometimes to the point of feeling their employees are malicious in their intent to avoid successful execution. That’s a bad place to be.

Back to the organization chart; we want one person in each block on the chart so it goes on that we want one person primarily accountable for initiatives in our business plans. For a visual image, two people can’t wear the same number on a sports team. You need to know who is executing each element of the playbook. If you have three number 7’s on the field, don’t be surprised if confusion and frustration ensues- confusion for the coach, the players and the refs.

Manage with Clarity

Here are some simple steps to ease some of the people management burden:

  • Make sure your plan assignments are clear to all of the players on your team and for yourself. Assure that everyone knows who (by name) is accountable for the various initiatives you may have in place for a successful year-i.e. who is leading each initiative.
  • Assure individual action assignments that support the initiatives are clear. Who does what action by when?
  • Develop a routine / schedule of initiative / action review with anyone responsible for key actions. Don’t wait until things are not progressing as planned. Set the review as part of the planning process or schedule it right now if you haven’t already.
  • Establish a culture of making adjustments. When things are not on target, comfortably and openly discuss what adjustments we can make as a team to get on track. Don’t wait until you’re about to burst in frustration; be proactive. Employees typically respond better to adjustments when they expect them. When making adjustments is the norm, well, it’s normal.

When you consistently hold to the management principles bulleted above, you gain clarity on the business issues. You also minimize the likelihood of blank stares, finger-pointing or team members running into one another while bumbling through playbook execution.

If you have anxiety associated with managing people, confirm you have the basic elements outlined in place. More often than not, one of these steps is missing or weak enough to place doubt in your heart over how to move forward.

Reader Interactions


  1. Victor Canada says

    Good stuff Jim. We are working on this now. Our small law firm is growing and we’re launching new initiatives with our adoption ministry.

    What do you think about the RACI model?

    • Jim Miley says

      Thanks Victor. Great to hear of growth for Onpoint. Regarding RACI, I’m for any tool that you find helpful and much of what we do is simplify things for our clients so they don’t need to carry too big of a toolbox. Lean and right to the issue. Stay in touch. – Jim

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.

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