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The Top 10 Leadership Skills Turf Managers Need

Thursday 08, Oct 2020


Being a Sports Turf Manager is a difficult job, and one element that is often noted as being a particularly challenging part of the role is leading people.  With the array of knowledge and skills it takes to manage a variety of people, tasks and business needs, the required skills of a Sport Turf Manager in addition to agronomic knowledge continue to evolve.  

A recent survey conducted with over 15,000 business leaders across the USA, Australia, Asia and Europe highlighted just how complex leadership can be.   Authors James Manktelow and Julian Birkinshaw found that, ideally, managers should possess and be able to use, between 90 and 120 individual skills.

The survey, a joint initiative between Mind Tools and London Business School, surveyed 15,242 managers to determine the skills managers determined to be the most critical to be an effective leader.  

While a common topic among many Trades is the limited exposure of these skills through education curriculum, the ability to grow and utilise management skills is critical in the performance of a Sport Turf Manager.

The Top 10 Leadership Skills Turf Managers Need

The survey found the Top 10 Management Skills needed in todays environment are: 

1. Building good working relationships with people at all levels.

The most important management skill, the survey found, is the ability to build good relationships with people at all levels.  That is,  creating "high-quality connections" through engagement, communication and most importantly, regular discussions with both their team and all stakeholders.

2. Prioritising tasks effectively for yourself and your team.

"All of us have a huge number of things that we want to do or have to do," Birkinshaw says. "The demands can often seem overwhelming, to us and the members of our team. This is why prioritisation is such an important management skill." To assist turf managers, has a list of 8 ideas to assist you in your endeavour to improve the skill of prioritising work.

3. Considering many factors in decision-making.

The survey identified effective managers regularly use a formal, structured process to think a problem through thoroughly, including analysing risk and exploring business priorities, and engaging team members in developing potential solutions.  

4. Knowing the key principles of good communication.

"Management is about getting things done by working with people," Manktelow says. “You can do this only if you communicate effectively. This is where the 7 C's of Communication — clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, courteous — can help you get your message through more clearly.  MindTools has a short video available here explaining the 7 C's of Communiction in more detail

5. Understanding the needs of different stakeholders and communicating with them appropriately.

As sports turf managers lead bigger projects, it becomes increasingly important to manage the many different groups of people who can support the work, and why it's important to develop good stakeholder analysis and stakeholder management skills.

6. Bringing people together to solve problems.

"It's often tempting to try to solve problems on your own," Birkinshaw says. But similar to Point 3, there are very many reasons why it pays to bring together a team of experienced people, gathering people for brainstorming sessions is a good start, but it also pays to understand structured problem-solving processes, know how to facilitate meetings well and be skilled in managing group dynamics.


7. Developing new ideas to solve facility problems.

To continue to meet the demands of players or members, clubs and facilities need to provide surfaces and grounds that meet the needs of customers exceptionally well. Approaches like design thinking can help managers develop highly satisfying results, and customer, team or member experience mapping can help you deliver a satisfying experience.  Ideou has some useful resources relating to starting out with design thinking as a process for creative problem solving (

8. Cultivating relationships with members, players or customers.

"The way you do this depends on whether you serve consumer or business markets," Manktelow says. "When you're dealing with players or members, you'll get great insights into groups by segmenting the customers and by developing solutions for each of these different segments."

9. Building trust within your team.

When there is a loss of confidence, or people don't trust one another in a team, they often waste a huge amount of time and results suffer. By contrast, people in trusting teams work efficiently and effectively, and they can deliver amazing results. To build trust, you need to lead by example, communicate honestly and openly, get to know individuals as people, avoid blame, and discourage group or individual behaviours that breach your trust or vision.

10. Using emotional intelligence.

"All managers need emotional intelligence to be effective," Birkinshaw says. "This means having the self-awareness, self-control, motivation, empathy and social skills needed to behave in a mature, wise, empathetic way with your team. Emotionally intelligent managers are a pleasure to work with and for, which is why they regularly attract and retain the best people."


“Even if you already feel like you have some of these skills, know that there is always more to learn, and the results will show in improved leadership," Manktelow says. "Practice them until they become second nature, and you will both perform better and you'll get better results from your team”

For more information on leadership and management for Sports Turf Managers, visit the People, Leadership & Development section of the ASTMA website, or additional articles and Management and Leadership tools are available via the Turfgrass Management Resources page