Solution Saturday: I’ve been Promoted

Dear Dan,

I am a new supervisor. I would appreciate any information from a new supervisor’s point of view.

One challenge is trying to continue to be a top performer/go-to person in a completely new position that I am still learning.

Another challenge/opportunity is one of the teams I supervise was created about a month before I became the supervisor. It’s difficult because I don’t know what to do as we are still creating processes and procedures. But it’s an opportunity because I get to help with those procedures and processes.

New Supervisor

Dear New,

Congratulations on your new position. You earned this new role because you were the go-to person. Now you’re learning that being a go-to supervisor is different from being a go-to person.

I anticipate some frustration. Not everyone aspires to be the go-to person. Some want to do a good job and go home. If you aren’t careful, you may judge others through your lens. What’s wrong with them? Why don’t they have deeper aspirations?

Judge others through the lens of their strengths, not yours.

Learn what people want out of work and help them reach it.

Ask yourself:

  1. Do they like to try new projects or does routine suite them?
  2. Are they good with people or better on their own?
  3. Who likes to finish things?
  4. What frustrates them?
  5. When do they light up?
  6. Who responds best to challenge?
  7. Who responds best to encouragement?

Moving on from being a go-to supervisor, let me add three big picture suggestions.

Develop an open relationship with your manager.

You don’t want your manager wondering what’s going on. Generally speaking, provide more information than you think they need. They’ll tell you when it’s too much.

Adapt to their preferred communication style. Do they prefer email, text, phone, or face-to-face communication?

Understand the pressures your manager feels. Questions to ask include:

  1. Does your manager aspire to climb the ladder? If so, how can you help them?
  2. What frustrates your manager? How might you minimize their frustrations?
  3. How might you solve problems, rather than create them?

Seek specific input and feedback from your manager. Avoid asking broad questions like, “How am I doing?” Bring up something specific and ask for feedback or input. Try the following.

“I’m working to energize Mary. What suggestions do you have?” Keep your options open by asking for more than one suggestion. Choose one of their suggestions and try it. Report back. Explain your next steps.

Be specific when seeking feedback. Try asking, “What’s one thing I’m doing that seems to hinder my success?” I like to ask two questions.

  1. What’s working?
  2. What could be better?

Understand the process of team formation.

Back in the 50’s, Bruce Tuckman observed that new teams go through a predictable four step process.

  1. Forming: A group of people end up on the same team.
  2. Storming: People bump up against each other as they learn how to work together.
  3. Norming: People learn each other’s strengths and learn how to work together.
  4. Performing: Friction goes down. Performance goes up.

He added ‘adjoining’ later. That’s when the job of a team ends and the team dissolves.

Accept that your new team will go through these four stages. Discuss them openly. Point out when you see them moving from one stage to the next, or slipping back.

Prepare for new relational dynamics.

Your friends will watch you closely. They may complain that you think you’re all that because of your promotion. Close friends may expect special treatment.

Favoritism causes friction and lowers team motivation. If you’ve already decided to give fun assignments to the people you like and crappy assignments to everyone else, your team won’t respect you.

  1. Expect everyone to do well.
  2. When people don’t do well, look to yourself before complaining about them. How might you be hindering their success? Do you understand their motivations? Were you clear with instructions?
  3. Treat people in alignment with their strengths and performance.
  4. Promotions impact relationships. Talk privately with your friends. Let them know your plan to treat everyone with equity. Some of them will adapt. Others won’t like it. 

The same drive that earned you a promotion will help you succeed as a supervisor. But the skills are different.

What suggestions do you have for a new supervisor?

**I relax my 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.

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