McManus, Director of Landscape Services, Ole Miss Golf Course and Airport
Operations. Jeff has been with the University since 2000. Jeff has a bachelor’s
degree in Landscape and Ornamental Horticulture from Auburn University. He is
also an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist. His
background in 5-star resorts such as Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando and
Turnberry Isle Resort and Club in North Miami, have given him the vision and
understanding of how important it is to make a great first impression with
landscaping. “You only get one chance to make a first impression,”
McManus says. “Whether we like it or not, people often judge our
organization by the outside appearance.”
SportsTurf: First question: How did you end up
in charge of the airport?
McManus: I am often amazed at how I ended
up at the airport—and several other things I get to do. When I started at the
Landscape Services Department, I began the job with the understanding that first impressions matter. For
the first few years, I used that idea to drive some changes I wanted to make
within the department. We didn’t have a lot of resources, but with a little
engagement and effort, we began working smarter and becoming, overall, highly
efficient. There were some key things we did that created some high-profile
results. We lowered our cost of operations. Our daily mowing time went from 10
days to 4 days. We got some national recognition for the beauty we created and
maintained. The airport, known as UOX, is the first place many new visitors see
of Ole Miss, Oxford, and the state of Mississippi. First impressions matter
both in appearance and customer service and UOX was in need of both. When asked
to do it, I extended the thinking and training we were doing in Landscape
Services to cover UOX. In the past several years we have become the second
busiest airport in the state.
ST: Who do you root for when Ole Miss and Auburn play?
McManus: I love both schools because I have
given the last 19 years of my life to Ole Miss and I went to school at Auburn.
I love them both just as you love your children. That said, I work hard
everyday to recruit top talent and students to Ole Miss to be one of the best
of the best.
ST: What experiences led to your interest in
McManus: Professional development has given
me some amazing opportunities for personal growth and connecting with others. I
know I feel better about my life when I am growing and improving. When you are
around others who want to do the same, it produces an incredibly positive
culture. It was that culture that led to our five national championships in
beautifications. We are blessed to work in an environment that is positive and
ST: Why did you decide to become a leader in managing
resources and “turning weeders into leaders”?
McManus: Most people I meet don’t have a
lot of people believing in them and many of them are trapped in a lie that
says, “You’ll never be more than what you are” or “You can’t change your life.”
But living in this country is a great gift. We have opportunities others only
dream of. Yet, the fear of “what if” holds us back from fully accessing the
opportunities. “What if I fail?” “What if they laugh at me?” “What if I actually
do it an succeed?” I think most people go to the grave with their best gifts,
talents and dreams still inside them. Over the years, I have had the pleasure
of watching others break through their fears and become their best self. A good
part of that process is due to the support and professional development we
experience on our job. Watching that happen is amazing and fulfilling and I
simply wanted to keep doing it.
ST: How do you manage your time with so many competing
McManus: First, I make sure to prioritize
daily what is important. I set routines in my life, such as working out and
running. They are on my calendar; therefore, I do them. Next, I look at who is
best suited to do the various projects, assign them to the job and then make sure
we schedule times to communicate and review. When I hire someone to run a
department, project or even a crew, we review the vision, mission, goals,
budgets, discuss strategies and desired outcomes together. Once we are on the
same page, my role is to get out of the way and let them run it. Of course, I
check in and review key elements of our plan periodically, but I learned a long
time ago I had to give up some control and my perfectionist attitude to be able
to do more. I must have faith in those that I work with to get the work done.
That takes practice. One of the biggest and most damaging fallacies we live
with is that we can actually manage time, but the truth is, we can only manage
our priorities. Time is the great resource we are not given more of, so we have
to use it wisely.
ST: What’s your favorite work activity now?
McManus: I really enjoy cultivating
leadership culture for teams and organizations. There is nothing quite as
satisfying as seeing the light bulb turn on for one person, then another and
another, and then watch them excel in their success. When you get the
opportunity to mentor younger leaders, owners, supervisors, executives, and see
how it changes their life, it makes the work fun.
ST: What’s new on the Ole Miss campus with regard to
your athletic field surfaces?
response is from Brian McNeill, Assistant Director, Sports Turf in Athletics:
“Our newest fields are the football game field, this season will be the fourth
year of bermuda 419. The football practice fields, we have one natural 419
turfgrass and one artificial field; this is our fourth year on both surfaces.
Our natural track field is bermuda 419 and is in its fourth year. Our
soccer field is in its third year, after we resurfaced the top and had the
addition of certified bermuda 419 sod. The Ole Miss baseball and softball
fields are original fields and doing well (also 419).”
ST: What’s next on your to-do list regarding your
speaking and professional development business?
McManus: I am excited about our next Leadership Academy November 6-7on the Ole Miss campus. It is a great way for leaders to grow themselves while working to develop leadership from within. This time, we will focus on communication and creating systems that allow a leader more time to focus on growing the business, not working in the business; how to increase high standards and even how to retain top talent. (For more information see here.