Developing Your Talent

Three Tips for Building Bench Strength

By JC Heinen on July 9, 2012

In sports, a team’s success is inexorably linked to its bench strength – that is, the players on the bench who can seamlessly jump in and replace a starting player who was pulled due to injury or other emergency. Professional football teams wouldn’t go to battle with only one quarterback and baseball teams have players on the bench from whom to choose in the event someone goes on the disabled list. It should be the same in your office. Do you have a contingency plan if one of your key team members is off the starting lineup?

Here are three simple tips that’ll help you build bench strength:

  1. The ’Win the Lottery’ notebook. How many times have we heard, “What if I won the lottery tomorrow? No one would know what to do.”   Are you prepared for the unexpected?  That’s precisely why your team needs to have a game plan outlining processes, deadlines, and directions for getting routine tasks completed. Ideally, departments should identify critical functions and have a game plan for each.
  2. Make knowledge sharing routine. Departmental cross-functional training pays off during periods of high volume and offers flexibility and agility when a key player is unexpectedly out. Cross-training has the added benefit of providing your team with fresh perspectives , encourages process improvement and creative problem-solving. It also gives individuals an opportunity to develop and expand skill sets.
  3. Ask “what if?” Like an IT business continuity plan, your departmental contingency plan needs to list all the potential scenarios that could occur and the problems that could arise. The team should continuously ask, “What’s our plan of action?”  By conducting a step-by-step test of the plan they ensure processes, expectations and objectives are clear and sustainable.

The role of managers is to plan, organize and lead. Effective planning takes into account the unexpected and includes defined processes to ensure you and your team are prepared and able to achieve goals.

2 Responses to “Three Tips for Building Bench Strength”

  1. Reen

    I agree this is critical to every unit. right now I am starting at ground floor at zero, just started the job, just got a team. And am finding out some things that are pretty hard to believe. Like: Associates in same position for over 5 years not cross trained on more than two functions when there are about twenty in the group over all. Everyone given the same production standard even though jobs are very different. Documentation on what they do is spotty, am finding up to date documentation on how they do it not there at all. Being told from higher management that person whose job I have moved into who is still in company did all the needed developments plans with associates and updates. Associates state saw at beginning of year never got a copy never an update.

    So starting from scratch have a 45 day plan to put this all in place. Change the atomsphere, get those employees engaged as well.

    • Lee Hecht Harrison

      Wow, you have quite a lot to accomplish! This is no small undertaking. I’d love to hear back from you on your progress and what initiatives you’ll be putting into place.


Leave a Reply