Supervision 101

My first day as a supervisor sucked! I let several employees go home early even though there were still a few hours left to go on the shift. I was very excited to be able to make the decision and take responsibility for my decisions. I felt powerful and important. I wanted my employees to like me and think I was an excellent supervisor for letting them go home. With about two hours left before the shift ended, two airplanes were having mechanical issues in flight and had to make an emergency landing at my location. I did not even have close to enough people to work the airplanes. I had to go around the organization and beg for help. It was a very humbling experience. When my manager found out, his only comment was, “I guess you won’t do that again.”

One of the first and most significant transitions an employee makes is the transition from worker to supervisor. In my example, I made a bad decision; it wasn’t because I was a bad supervisor, it was because I didn’t have experience and I was trying to impress my subordinates. There were a few lessons I learned that day. First, you have to have some foresight and plan for some likely possibilities. Second, doing the right thing is always the right thing. Doing what you think your people want is not always going to be the right thing. Lastly, making mistakes are awesome when you learn something from them.

Once you are a supervisor you will notice that your standards are the standards that your workers will achieve. The cut corners you allow and the broken rules you allow will determine your ability to lead the team. If you have low standards, that is where they will work. The key is to have high standards. They can’t be so high as to be unreasonable, but they must he high enough that is takes real effort and practice to achieve them. Every team I was ever a part of that was happy and productive was lead by a supervisor that had high standards.

The last tip and I think most important one is to change your focus from technical ability to focus on your people. Be great to your people. If you are a server in a restaurant and you get promoted to supervise the servers, you are faced with an almost endless stream of problems. Some will be about the work, but many will be about interpersonal relationships, teambuilding, team performance, personal performance, morale, and the list goes on and on. Personal lives will always bleed over into professional lives. So treat people like they matter. Give them the training and skills they need and be genuinely concerned for their well-being and you will be much better than many supervisors leading people today!

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