So You’re a Newbie Team Manager

By: Melissa Dick, Team Manager, Tennessee

So you think you might sign up for this ‘Team Manager’ thing for the very first time? You and your team are in for an amazing journey of a lifetime. However, starting any new position can feel overwhelming. Here are eight tips to help you best manage your team this season:

  1. Find a Co-Team Manager. Grab a friend and ask them to be your partner in crime. Maybe one of you oversees the Team Challenge part of the meetings, and the other is the Instant Challenge guru.
  2. Find a mentor. Whether or not you have a co-manager, you’ll definitely want a mentor. Find someone else who is or has been a Team Manager, and put them on speed dial. You’ll have questions (Can I say this, or is it Interference?) or frustrations (One member is monopolizing the meetings! How do I handle it?) and you might just want someone to talk to who just gets it (Wow—let me tell you what they came up with in their Instant Challenge practice. It was amazing!)
  3. Go to Team Manager training. Clear your calendar and go. You’ll be glad you did. Yes, some training tools are available online, but it is no replacement for being in the room with other new and experienced Team Managers. Ask questions. Make friends. (See #2.) Also, there are usually snacks.
  4. Read. Read the Rules of the Road. Read the Roadmap. Read the Team Challenge. The materials that Destination Imagination provides are invaluable. The Roadmap will take you through every meeting–and you can follow it precisely or improvise. The Rules of the Road will answer so many questions about what you and the team can and can’t do. And the Team Challenge? You and your team will have that nearly memorized by the time the season is over. This is a great teaching opportunity for the team—read the directions. (And this is where they will learn to embrace the beloved DI adage, If it doesn’t say you can’t, then you can!)
  5. Get volunteers. They may not have been able to be the Team Manager, but parents are grateful for what you’re doing and are great for more than just bringing snacks and carpooling. Ask them to bring Instant Challenge supplies or make a donation to your dollar store run. Do a skills and talents survey of parents—what skills might they be able to teach the team? Sewing, drilling, writing a song? You’ll also be glad to have an extra set of eyes on the day that the tools come out. Nothing like handing a group of fourth graders a hacksaw and then standing back. (Safety first!)
  6. Learn how to ask questions and listen. It is hard not to tell the team how to do something, or give them suggestions, but you’ll be surprised at the ideas that they’ll come up with that, frankly, are better than yours. Remember, no Interference! But you can and should ask open-ended questions that will get them thinking.
  7. Laugh. Have fun with the team. Be goofy sometimes. They’ll appreciate it and so will you.
  8. Enjoy the process. Congratulations—you’ve just made a life-changing decision for them and for you. You’re going to see these team members become leaders, learn how to work together, persevere and cheer each other on. These kids won’t ever forget you or what they accomplished during the season. And some of them may never leave your ‘family.’

Interested in becoming a Destination Imagination Team Manager? Click here to contact your local Affiliate for more information. 

About the Author: Melissa Dick is in her sixth year of being a Team Manager and gets teary-eyed every year during the Welcome Ceremony at Global Finals. In addition to being the Affiliate Growth Director for Tennessee Destination Imagination, she’s a writer, artist, mom of two boys, creativity nut and avid “Doctor Who” fan.