Solution Saturday: I’ve been Promoted
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.
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.
- Do they like to try new projects or does routine suite them?
- Are they good with people or better on their own?
- Who likes to finish things?
- What frustrates them?
- When do they light up?
- Who responds best to challenge?
- 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:
- Does your manager aspire to climb the ladder? If so, how can you help them?
- What frustrates your manager? How might you minimize their frustrations?
- 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.
- What’s working?
- 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.
- Forming: A group of people end up on the same team.
- Storming: People bump up against each other as they learn how to work together.
- Norming: People learn each other’s strengths and learn how to work together.
- 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.
- Expect everyone to do well.
- 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?
- Treat people in alignment with their strengths and performance.
- 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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Great post and response, Dan. The only real suggestion I might have is to amend that “Ask Yourself” thought about what they like and what they want to “Ask THEM” and listen carefully to their thoughts and responses. If you simply “ask yourself,” you are most certainly setting up the risk of projecting your beliefs and ideals onto them, which you might not find all that beneficial.
Facilitation skills are one of the things I see lacking in most management. Many people are unengaged and you can step up and ask them for their ideas and their understandings and their goals with little risk and a lot of positive impact. DIS-unengage them. Help them manage personal on-the job roadblocks. Do more to form teams and support their implementation of ideas.
Trust is a huge workplace issue, as is respect. And ALL of us know more than ANY of us so building a sense of collaboration and shared problem-solving will help on the intrinsic motivation side of things. Most managers do not ask and even fewer listen.
Ask yourself about the qualities of your “Best Bosses” and strive to do some of those things. Do not depend on HR or T&D to help much, since there is little benefit for them to work with lowly supervisors in other than a cursory way. Look for online courses on building competencies — there are tons of them out there. Talk with other supervisors about their best practices.
The Truth is Out There. (I read that somewhere…)
Have FUN out there!
Thanks Dr. Scott. Wonderful shift in focus. I’m always preaching that leaders are trying to solve things that their teams could solve. Your suggestion to ask them rather than ask yourself is important.
Thanks also for adding your insights. One of my favorites is think about the best bosses and emulate some of their behaviors.
I think one hindrance for new supervisors is our tendency to feel awkward when we try out new behaviors. We feel like fakers. If we can’t overcome this we won’t grow.
If we are always feeling comfortable with the things that we are doing, that probably indicates that we are doing the same things we have always done; that might be okay, but it probably isn’t. Right now, a muscle hurts in my back – The easiest thing I can do is nothing. But, I know that I have to go through some relatively painful stretching to get thing better. (Don’t you just hate bad analogies? (grin) )
I think “Supervisor” is probably the hardest job in the world. You are accountable for everything but you are also learning as you go. They measure and meeting you to death, do not give you much in the way of resources, and give you an amazing amount of policies and procedures to follow impecably. YOU have to do the appraisals of people you may have worked with and training? DDI says that 11% of supervisors get any kind of leadership development training.
So, A Big Round of Well-Earned Applause for anyone who is out there directly supervising workers!
I used to sue the advice of thinking of my best bosses and emulating them. The only issue I had was dealing with things that I had never seen my bosses deal with. Usually dealing with behavioural/performance issues.
So, THEN, you can put your brain into the Very Useful “What would Best Boss Do in this situation” to generate some really good considered alternatives. Those perspective shifts are ALWAYS useful. If we keep doing things that same way, we can pretty much predict that same old result! Have fun out there, too. That is also an important strategy for maintaining personal and organizational momentum for continuous continuous improvement.
A new supervisor might think they have to prove how great their own strength is – don’t fall into this trap! Lean into your mentors more than ever and show everyone – including your new team – that you remain teachable; in fact, you may discover that you have much to learn from them, especially if any of them have been with the company or in the industry longer than you. And if I could go back and do it all again, I wouldn’t wait until I was neck-deep the biggest crisis of my life (both professional and personal) to invite God into my leadership journey. I’m not suggesting that only people who believe in God can be good leaders, but I do know that I became the best leader I could be once I strove to integrate my faith life into my work life. This was so life-changing for me that I ultimately wrote a book about it!
Thanks Leadership. Yes! Remember that you earned the position. The people who hired you believe in you. Accept that and move forward.
Thanks for your insights.
Dan, I just want to say I read every post you write and I always pick up a nugget. Keep doing what you are doing…..you are making a difference! I especially like this one today:
Judge others through the lens of their strengths, not yours.
Thanks Sheila. Your kind words are an encouragement to me. It’s a pleasure to be of service. Best for the journey.
With your new team, give it time, observe, listen and find your niche, if someone is already leading ride the wave, and you will find your way.
Supervisor positions are a challenging for sure, seek advice what is expected of you by your appointees before diving in.
Talk with others who may have held the position, what worked for them, what didn’t work? Form your own platform by observing, researching and implement what needs done overtime, you will be fine. Trust you gut when in doubt!
Thanks Tim. “If someone is already leading ride the wave.” Brilliant! New supervisors might be threatened by strong team members. It’s the supervisors job to release people, not hold them back.
Good Saturday to you.
I’ve written before and love your blog, there’s so much great information. I’ve saved a lot of your post and refer to them often, I’ve even shared a few with my Team and direct reports.
I’ve recently been promoted to Manager and directly lead a Team of 21 people, indirectly lead a Team of 1950 front line employees. I’m new to this Team and location. One of my direct reports (Assistant Manager) was up for my current position as well. Now that I’m in place I feel as though my assistant is working against me. I’ve had one on ones, I have made only small changes such as implementing a tracking plan with a new spreadsheet. I’ve been cautious with decision making and include my Assistant and ask for his input in most decisions I’ve made for his buy in. Any idea I present is shot down or broken apart. There needs to be big changes (I’m being extremely conservative at this time) with this Team, their former Leader didn’t provide a lot of support. I’d appreciate any advice or pointers you could provide. Thank you.
Signed New kid on the block
Sent from my iPhone
There is that old saying, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and simply annoys the pig.”
Sometimes, you need to cut bait before you can fish, and it sounds like you have given your assistant every opportunity to hear the message and get on the train; some people simply prefer walking. If that person is competent, why not try to find them another job within the organization where their skills and beliefs might support someone else more aligned with their beliefs.
Give it a go, and try to do something differently to better involve and engage them. But in the end, note that it is their choice as to how they work with you.
Hey New, I’m hopeful we see some readers chime in on this. Let’s see what happens.
I often tell new Leaders to remember how they and their peers ofren viewed their bosses:
Clueless and not in touch with reality
If you keep this in mind and remain open to serving others you may actually learn to Lead!
Thanks Brad. I love the simplicity of your insight. Think about common complaints about managers. How might you answer those complaints? If you don’t do the dumb things a bad manager does, you are more likely to succeed.
One word “MENTOR”. I know I had one on the way up that always kept me in line. Now that I (just) made it to my final career goal I thanked that person. The problem is that person will be retiring and my new job is a days drive away. So its mentor search time again. That person does not have to be above you. They just have to be someone who can see the big picture and cares for you and the agency. As for the assistant, my new #2 and myself competed for this job. We have been friends for years I am very hopeful it works out. Good luck.
Thanks Walt. Congratulations!
Mentor is a powerful word. I’ve been mulling over the most powerful shaping force in a leader’s life… Is it circumstances or people? When times are steady, I think it’s people. During crisis, maybe it’s circumstances. Maybe the most powerful force in a leader’s life is always people?
I’m excluding our internal commitments and values. I’m thinking of external forces that shape us.
I wish you success.
Thank you Dan your words have played a part in getting me here. In a crisis it is your people and how they respond that will get you though it or show your teams weakness. You are right internal commitments and values of each person has a lot to do with how they deal with crisis. That can be identified and in some ways manipulated (if willing) as you help people see how they can be a better person. Looking forward to reading your blog during this next step in my life.
For a new group with emerging processes, it’s important to clarify the purposes and objectives of the group. I’ve often observed that those outside the group tend to set expectations for new groups that can lead to its downfall. Clarifying, communicating, and setting expectations for a new group is critical.
A second point is to not let a pursuit of process perfections negate progress. Developing processes that are good enough in a timely manner can lead to quick wins. When success breeds success, new groups are off to a great start. It can always improve good processes over time, but it can’t implement processes stalled due to “imperfetions.”