What’s your stance on dealing with agents during Head Coaching searches? Nearly every HC has an agent these days, which seems natural given escalating compensation around the industry. Some ADs take a hands-off approach and refuse to engage directly with agents. How do you approach these situations and how can both sides (the AD/university & the prospective HC) derive benefit from having an agent involved?
I will always talk to an agent because they have an understanding of what their client is looking for. However, I recently hired an individual from our legal counsel’s office at FSU to work directly within athletics. This person handles any contractual employment negotiations with our head coaches that employ an agent. I prefer that negotiations are handled attorney to attorney. While I am also an attorney, I do not practice contractual law on a daily basis like our in-house legal counsel does. I prefer that she handle it because she can better flush out all the contractual nuances that I might miss when trying to structure and come up with an arrangement that is equitable for both the head coach and the university. I am involved in the negotiations through our in-house counsel as all the contractual change requests come to me for approval. At the end of the day, once we are finished with the negotiations it has to be something that my university president is comfortable approving. So I prefer to deal with agents as a precursor to make them aware that I will speak with them but the actual negotiation will be handled by our legal counsel. I believe this benefits both the coach and myself where we can just deal with the major points and instruct our attorneys to move forward with the actual negotiations and not get bogged down with the process. This also allows the coaches to concentrate on their respective teams without the distraction of having to figure out contractually how to continue feeling comfortable working at Florida State.
Time management is a challenge for virtually every AD around the nation. How do you use your administrative assistant(s), digital tools & planning processes to make sure you have a clear picture of what the day holds & then sticking to it? Any tips you can share? What’s your administrative assistant’s secret code for when she needs to interrupt about something really important :)?
I have one of the best executive assistants in the country and she is the person who manages my daily schedule of meetings, conference calls, signing of contracts, travel, correspondence, and miscellaneous paperwork. Vicki is the filter that keeps me organized and helps make my day bearable. Without having someone as proficient, I don’t know how I would be able to maintain the responsibilities of running an athletics department which consists of 20 sports, over 550 student-athletes and 250 employees. My tip is to find someone who is detail-oriented and someone who is not afraid to put in the hours necessary to keep their supervisor well organized and informed. It’s all about hiring the right person. I was lucky that Vicki was already here when I arrived at FSU and that she is a person who has held various positions in her career other than an executive assistant; therefore, she came with a variety of skills that help me in all that I do. She is in tune with me and knows my idiosyncrasies which is important because she often times has to save me from myself. Vicki knows exactly when it’s time to interrupt me to keep me on schedule for the rest of my day. We communicate often, using a variety of mediums. She has constant access to my calendar and emails. An important component to being an assistant to the AD is the ability to anticipate my needs – even before I do.
For example, during busy weekends, I am prepped with an itinerary of “where, when, how and who” so that my schedule is seamless and I can move from event to event. I receive information I need, both on my phone calendar and a typed hard copy of the meetings and events I am attending, which includes speaking points, names and bios of donors I may be meeting, and sometimes, even when I have free time to get in a workout. She is a liaison with donors and other constituents, stays abreast of daily happenings in Tallahassee, around FSU’s campus and within the world of athletics so that she can provide me the “need to know” items to begin the day. It is important to have good communication and trust as ultimately it is an important partnership.
Senior staff synergy is a topic I’m always thinking about for my own team. Do you have any specific examples of how you effectively encourage collaboration, healthy competition & a team-first mantra?
Yes, I allow my executive staff to be themselves, speak their minds and I always challenge them on their thought process by asking questions to help get a clearer picture of an overall situation. This can help them give their co-workers/team an understanding of the ideas that they are espousing. It starts by having an executive team that complements me so I like to find and hire individuals that have expertise in areas that I do not. But I also like to hire individuals that have had some experiences similar to mine such as in the compliance regulatory field. If you aspire to be a Deputy, Assistant, or Senior Associate AD, it helps to have a background in the compliance governance area. You will be faced with a compliance or governance issue almost daily and having those tools and experiences makes staff members familiar with them invaluable. Of my executive team, over half have a compliance background. I meet with my executive staff on a weekly basis and encourage open communication – which sometimes leads to lively debate – but as we walk out the door we are unified as a team that supports one another and moves in the same direction to provide the coaches, staff and student-athletes what they need to be successful and represent our department and university well.