For some people, achieving supervisor status is a career dream come true. They have put in long hours, committed their creativity and energy to helping the company succeed and now will reap the benefits.
Unfortunately, many companies throw new supervisors into the management waters without a boat or even a life preserver. It’s little wonder that many new managers sink in such conditions.
There are ways, however, to minimize the chances of being swept under, including taking the time to understand the new position, what will be expected of you, and how you can lead a group of people with integrity and professionalism.
Among the suggestions from experienced managers:
• Listen to employees. This is the time to find out what their expectations are, what they believe to be critical issues. Perhaps they need support with projects, or are having difficulties with interactions with another department. They key is to ask lots of questions and listen carefully without injecting your own opinion.
• Understand the company agenda. Never assume because you’ve got experience with an employer that you understand what you are supposed to do as a supervisor. Talk to your boss and find out the goals he or she has, what they expect you to accomplish. Find out how the boss likes to communicate (meetings, telephone, e-mail), and how often these communications should be made. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions – give yourself time to just listen and observe and don’t waste energies trying to fit everything into black and white scenarios.
• Ask for help. Just because you’ve now got that management title doesn’t mean you’ve become some kind of superhero. Ask for help from your boss, your customers, your peers, your employees. They will appreciate that you are receptive to new ideas and innovations, and don’t expect to ramrod through your own opinions simply because you are in charge.
• Set the tone. From the beginning it’s critical that you establish good conduct so that employees can see firsthand your expectations. Be professional, and protect the privacy of others. Now that you’re in a supervisory role, gossiping for any reason is a no-no. If you say you’re going to do something, be dependable and follow-through. Do not make promises you can’t keep.
One of the key ways to establish a professional, fair image is to avoid criticizing other departments or individuals in front of other employees, or make guesses about a situation where you don’t have all the facts. Apologize if you’ve made a mistake, and don’t blame others to cover an error.
• Lead by example. By being courteous, fair and cool in the face of criticism, you are showing workers exactly how you want customers treated. Or, if you expect employees to be organized, don’t show up late for meetings, shuffling papers and unprepared to give your report.
• Be a nice person. This may sound silly, especially if you believe you are already a nice person. But it’s amazing how many young supervisors start to lose their polite behavior when they’re stressed from trying to meet new goals and expectations. By remaining respectful and courteous to employees, you are building the most important block of your career – employee commitment. And, most of the “nice” supervisors will say that employees who are treated well are more than willing to jump in a help a new boss whenever it’s needed. Tyrant bosses rarely get any help volunteered, and workers may even try to sabotage them.
• Know the rules. Take time to read your new job description, and the job descriptions and past performance evaluations of those you will supervise. Understand company policies and procedures, and where to refer employees if you cannot answer a question. Know your training responsibilities, employee benefits, and any collective bargaining agreement with workers.