Tips for the new Supervisor
Becoming a supervisor for the first time can be an unnerving experience. You may feel as if you have been dumped into a trackless desert where people await your leadership before anyone has handed you a map. Here are some signposts:
Do not try to be your predecessor or to emphasize your difference from your predecessor. You can only be confident that your center will hold in times of pressure if you remain yourself.
Do not be a “new broom” that immediately tries to sweep away all previous procedures. Reassure your staff that it will be “business as usual” at least until you get the lay of the land and have a clearer idea of what is needed.
Observe, ask questions, be a good listener, solicit input, let people know you are open to being informed of problems.
Move around among your staff. Find ways to get to know them. If necessary, create reasons for contact so that you can establish good two-way communication. Whenever possible, have an open door policy.
Review written materials, policies and procedures
Do this as early as possible. Identify priorities, put yourself in a position to know what needs to be done without having to depend on others to give you information that is actually already available to you.
Use your boss and seek a seasoned mentor
Do not use these sources to get information that is available in training materials and procedures manuals that you will be expected to have read. Turn to your human resources (note that does not necessarily mean “Human Resources Department,” but resources who are human beings) for information that may not be available writing. Particularly, get clarification on the extent of your authority and your responsibility, where the ball is yours to carry, and where it must be handed off. Also, try to become aware of any ‘political’ problems or inter-departmental concerns without being influenced by or involved in the gossip cesspool.
You are not a lone ranger, and your staff are not peons. Early in the game they probably know more than you about many aspects of the job. While you will need to establish your authority, you also need to empower your staff as members of the team.
Be evenhanded, fair, and consistent
Discover for yourself the strengths and weaknesses of your staff. Beware the eager beaver staff member who tries to fill you in on everything and everyone on your first few days. The information s/he gives may be filtered and self-serving.
Promise – and provide – good communication in both directions
Let your staff know that you will keep them informed whenever possible, and build trust that you will avoid surprises whenever it is in your power. Encourage them to seek clarification when necessary. Let your staff know that you care about them, and, above all, that when they speak with you they are heard.
Wherever it is within your power, make your own decisions
You are the new kid on the block, and people may expect to be able to influence you. Be clear that when you seek information and advice, you are not handing over the reins. You are simply gathering additional data for use in YOUR decision-making process.Do not give away your power, but do not abuse it either.
And good luck!
Diana Gardner Robinson
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