Human Resources
 min read

9 Tips For First Time Supervisors

Becoming a supervisor for the first time can feel panicky and afraid of whether you'll be able to get things in line. Learn 9 tips for first time supervisors.

Becoming a supervisor for the first time? Feeling panicky and afraid of whether you’ll be able to get things in line? Don’t worry. We’re here to help you learn some important tips to manage your new role effectively and efficiently.

The first step in becoming a successful supervisor is understanding the fact that your new role requires you to deal with new challenges. Secondly, you need to know that you were chosen for this particular role for certain reasons – it could be your people skills, your leadership drive, your personality, your project management skills, your ability to solve problems and so on. Knowing this will help you build your strong areas and use them to perform well and also to maintain good relationship with your subordinates.

So, what should first-time supervisors do?

Be Comfortable With Your Role

Yes, it’s perfectly normal to freak out if you’ve never been in a managerial role before. You may think you need to change your style overnight, you may need to change your relationship with your subordinates or you may need a new working strategy. If you’re thinking of all that – STOP.

The first step is always the most important step. You can only be a good supervisor if you are comfortable with the role and let the change come to you gradually as you learn to play with the reigns. You can’t expect to control a wild horse in one go. Similarly, you can’t expect to have your subordinates immediately like you, for your boss to praise your management skills or for you to bring some drastic changes to the company. Slow and steady wins the race. So if you’ve just received the designation – take it easy.

Spend Time in Understanding Your Subordinates

Most first-time supervisors make the mistake of issuing out orders or being bossy to their subordinates. That is a big NO NO. Before you expect their support, you have to show them your support. You have to know your employees, know their challenges, and know the problems they face. That being said, you don’t have to spend hours in constantly listening and solving mundane problems. You also don’t have to invest 90% of your energy in listening to rants, banter, complaints or negativity because that’s what most employees do with first-time supervisors.

What you do need to do, however, is keep an open-door policy and invite people to come up to you with genuine problems that need solutions. You can also try to get to know them better by inviting them to a luncheon or maybe a picnic, a field trip, etc. The idea is to allow your subordinates to warm up to you but without crossing the line of respect.

Understand the Business

So you’ve spent time accepting the role and understanding your subordinates, but now you need to come to understand the business. If you’re a new hire, you may need to spend a considerable amount of time looking at reports, understanding the broader landscape of the company and learning what is happening across the business.

You can do this by spending time with senior leaders and ask questions. That being said, don’t go bothering them with mundane questions! Show your ability to research, to understand things on your own only to ask them why some certain decisions were made and what is expected out of you and your team to achieve. The more you understand the business, the role you play, the role of your team members and the expected outcomes, the easier it is for you to help your team focus, create tasks, and ensure success.

Learn Leadership Skills

Now that you’re a supervisor, you may be tempted to show off a little management skill. But don’t make that mistake. The new world order demands leadership skills over management skills, which essentially means you need to replace commands with coordination, micromanagement with delegation, problem identification with solution identification. You should also know that as a supervisor, you need time to plan, monitor, track, and implement progress/success instead of doing the dirty work yourself.

Leadership is an extremely important trait needed in today’s world and is one of the reasons employees either stay or leave a workplace. Employees today know their rights and would hesitate to work with supervisors and managers who stick to age-old management terms.

Be an Example for Your Peers

It’s easy to counsel, to ask subordinates to follow rules, to give them ratings and values but it’s certainly difficult to be an example for them to follow. You lead by example, not by command. If you slack, your team slacks. If you gossip, your team gossips. If you bully, your team bullies. If you drop appointments, impose pressure or micromanage, your team and your company suffer.  If you do well, your team does well. If you motivate, your team is empowered. If you work hard, your team works harder.

Through the good times and the bad, through struggles and through wins, through your decisions, your leadership skills and your ability at handling challenges, you become an example for those around you. To do all this though, you need to have a balanced approach, to slow down, to be patient, and to develop an informed perspective. Lead in a way that people can trust, admire, and model.

Create Simple Processes for Maximum Productivity

Most organizations lack a defined process. This is a potential problem in the long run. You’ll have employees slacking, not taking their job seriously or not following certain procedures because there is no specific process to keep everyone aligned. Now when we talk about process, it doesn’t mean for you to get lost in Excel sheets, graphs or complex software. It simply means to introduce order and ensure that each action has a consequence to it. Introduce the concept of deadlines. Introduce the concept of level of effort calculations. Introduce the concept of benefits for meeting deadlines, of consequences for missing deadlines. When you introduce order, you introduce responsibilities. When you introduce reasonable consequences, you introduce self-awareness.

Learn to Make Firm Decisions

Being flip-floppy on your decisions could create a negative impact. Your subordinates, as well as your boss, need to believe in your ability to make strong decisions. If you don’t make well-thought-out decisions, both your team and your boss will lose trust in your ability to strategically lead the organization towards goal attainment. You should know how to make practical and informed decisions instead of emotional and impulsive decisions. Never make a decision while in anger. Never use your temper to argue a point. Never use force to get an agreement. Diplomacy, professionalism and practical understanding of the business, the role, the task at hand and the team members is what you need to develop.

Learn to Have an Objective Perspective on Things

While you can’t completely let go of subjectivity, it helps to try to understand things in an objective, impersonal manner. If you face gossips, complaints, negativity, hard talk, criticism, etc., learn to separate fact from fiction, real from imaginary. As much as you’d like to, you can’t be everybody’s friend. You can’t solve all the problems. You can’t be a one-man army and you certainly can’t be an emotional rollercoaster.

The best way then to deal with any criticism your way is to be able to handle it in an objective manner. This implies that you should be able to decipher why your employee has a certain complaint. Is there anything you can do to address the complaint? Is it affecting company performance or team motivation? What counter-measures can you take to keep your employees satisfied and motivated? Most importantly, are you able to derive any learning from the negative behavior of others? When we can distance our emotional selves from workplace dramas and dilemmas, we may be better equipped to handle pressure and workplace stress. For a leader, nothing is more important and valuable than having the ability to be kind yet levelheaded.

Keep a Learning Curve

With all the progress you make, all the shots you scored, you still should be open to new lessons. Take online courses, attend leadership seminars, extend knowledge through internal trainings, share the latest findings and constantly keep yourself up on the learning curve. It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency and egoistic attitudes often seen with successful managers and supervisors. Never forget the value of remaining humble, being a knowledge seeker, and finding ways to improve yourself.

Truly successful leaders never lose their real essence when they are given the power to lead. Instead they bank upon their strong sides and continuously improve their weaknesses. They are not narcissists, not egoists, not control freaks.

For a first-time supervisor all of this may sound daunting, but be on the job for a month or so and you’ll eventually understand how important it is to make the right decisions, use the right management technique and eventually grow into a leader that everyone wishes to work for.

Jose Leon
Verified writer

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