3 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Became a Supervisor


Nearly nine out of ten companies surveyed by Deloitte Global point to retention and engagement as their biggest challenges. One reason they have identified for good employees jumping ship is lack of trust in the leadership and management. From an employee’s perspective, there are numerous ways supervisors can flounder and demoralize their teams.

Looking back, these are what I wish I knew so to ensure that those I supervised didn’t just stay, but flourished and eventually succeeded:

  1. Trust your team. Learning is a lifelong process. Tenure or work experience does not guarantee that you will always know better, and proof of this is my finally figuring out what some emojis mean, thanks to our intern. . Being a good supervisor, I have learned, is not necessarily about always being relied on to have the answers, but in instilling confidence in people that you can find the answers. This means taking a more collaborative stance as well as keeping your eyes and ears open for the different strengths and ideas that your team brings to the table. If, for instance, you are a small company that is trying to lay the foundation for social media, it won’t hurt to tap into the your staff’s web savvy and discuss strategy.
  1. ‘Fair’ and ‘equal’ are not the same thing. If there’s one thing that makes employees want to leave, it’s having the sense that they are being treated unfairly. It’s possible to be fair and not give everyone the same thing, simply because people want different things and have different definitions for success. One good example is how you recognize your team members. We all like to be recognized for a job well done, but while some might enjoy a company-wide kudos email, others might prefer a gift card or even half a day off.
  1. You can’t be friends with everyone. As a supervisor, you have the responsibility to be accessible and receptive to your team. This is where, for your sake and your team’s, you need to draw the line between being friendly and being friends. Being a friend makes it challenging for you to effectively perform as a supervisor when you have to enforce discipline, or worse, deliver bad news such as terminations – realities that every supervisor finds he or she has to face. Make sure to toe the line and be consistently professional, particularly when you have risen through the ranks and now have your former coworkers reporting to you. An example is when a team member experiences a family crisis and tells you. As a good supervisor, you can still express sincere sympathy. Ask what the employee needs – maybe some time off ? – to get through these difficult times. If appropriate, you can have the team rally to support the team member. This is being a good boss, but not necessarily a friend.

Many of us become supervisors not just because of our work skills but also because of our people skills. We lead a team of professionals we can trust, we are in charge of a group with unique skills sets as well as personalities, and just as importantly, we simply lead and are in charge. More than anything, our job is to do these in the way that serves the best interest of our teams.

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