Ensure Your New Supervisors Have the Basics

Too often individual contributors are promoted to supervisory roles without having the basics to understand what to do and what not to do when leading employees for the first time. This is frustrating for the new supervisor and for the employees they are leading. It is also frustrating for the new supervisor’s manager. While there are a number of skills and knowledge necessary to be successful managing people, in this article we’ll focus on just a handful of basic competencies each new supervisor should have prior to moving into a supervisory role.

Let’s start with talking about the challenges in moving from being an individual contributor to a supervisor. Most new supervisors start off managing individuals who were previously peers (often in the same department) and/or who are friends. This is a difficult situation for any new supervisor! It is essential for new supervisors to establish credibility and authority, while simultaneously not taking on a “command and control” demeanor that pushes away and disengages their staff.

New supervisors need to know that they can make this transition more easily by…

  • …setting clear expectations and boundaries between friendship and managing people.
  • …being aware of how the new supervisor interacts with, and engages with, those who used to be their friends and new individuals who report up to them. New supervisors do not want to appear to be playing favorites among staff.
  • …working closely with human resources to provide them the support needed as they begin to establish themselves in a new manager role.

In this article we’ll focus on three key competencies1 for new supervisors. While there are a number of other competencies, skills and knowledge that new supervisors need to be successful, these three below are a great starting point and might be considered a foundation.

Building and Nurturing Strong Relationships: The ability to build and nurture strong relationships enables for being able to influence others to accomplish tasks. It also enables for working more effectively cross-functionally. When supervisors have built strong working relationships with their staff, they build trust and demonstrate trustworthiness.

It takes time to build and nurture relationships. Consider these ways to build and nurture relationships with both staff and peers:

  • Ensure regular one-on-one meetings with staff and monthly all staff meetings
  • Have lunch once or twice a month with your peers
  • Meet quarterly with peers to share best practices and problem solve challenges together

Communication Skills: The ability to communicate effectively – verbally and in written documents – up, down and across the organization is essential to overall success in a leadership role. The most effective leaders adapt their communication style to those around them. We cannot communicate in one way and expect to engage and motivate everyone. We need to communicate in ways that works for others so that we can influence them to accomplish goals and to get what we need. A big part of communication skills is the ability to use active listening skills. When we use active listening we fully concentrate to understand what the other individual is saying; we are not focused on anything else but the conversation with the other person.

Delegating Effectively: The ability to effectively delegate to others is essential when in a supervisory role. It is not possible to do everything yourself. Delegation is often a big challenge for new supervisors, especially when they come from an individual contributor role as they are not used to delegating. Delegating requires knowing your staff – their skills, knowledge, capabilities and goals. The goal in delegating is not to delegate work that you don’t want to do and that is boring. The goal is to delegate projects that are challenging and enable for using employees’ skills and capabilities and to continue to grow.

These are just a handful of competencies necessary for success in a supervisory role.

How are you getting your new supervisors up to speed and ensuring they are successful in their new roles? Contact Abudi Consulting Group today to learn how we work with our clients to ensure their new supervisors start off on the right path to success in a leadership role!

1 This is not an inclusive list of necessary skills, competencies and knowledge to be successful in a new supervisor role.
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