Merge's Blog

Tip #4 for the new supervisor – it’s all about the people!

A few weeks ago, I started a short series about how the skills needed as a new supervisor are very different from those that were needed in your previous role as an individual contributor.  When you take on the role of supervisor for the first time, it’s important to recognize that the change in your job title also MUST be accompanied by a shift in how you think.  It’s not the same job with a few minor changes, it’s a completely different occupation.  If you fall into the trap of thinking that the skills and behaviours that have made you successful in the past will make you successful in the future, you are setting yourself up for failure as a new supervisor.

The first three tips I offered got a very positive response, so I thought it would be useful to add to this series.  Starting today, and over the next three weeks, I’ll offer up an additional tip on how to successfully make the switch into a supervisory role.  Today’s tip: it’s all about the people!

Your key resources are your people!

Consider this big change: your key resources are no longer your technical knowledge, or your specialized equipment, or even your top-notch analytical skills.  Your key resources are your people!  And sadly, the unfortunate truth is that your people, your staff members, won’t always do things the way you’d like or the way you think they should!  And for some of you, that will drive you completely crazy!  Yet, ironically, your personal evaluation as a supervisor will be influenced by how individual members of your team perform.  This paradox can be very frustrating, but it is a reality of the management role.  There is no way you can avoid this.  It comes with the job.

When I’m working with new supervisors one-on-one, I sometimes say to them: for all practical purposes, you are married to your team!  Yes I know, that sounds radical and a little bit crazy, but reflect on it for just a moment.  In a marriage, at least in the short-term, you don’t usually just walk away from your partner – you usually have to invest time and energy into working problems out.  Eventually, you may choose to get a divorce, but even that process takes a while to accomplish.

It’s similar when you are a supervisor or manager of a team. Even though you may not like what individual team members do, or how they behave, you cannot just walk away – you have to invest time and energy in working through problems and reaching solutions.  Eventually, you may be able to remove a team member from the group, but it’s usually not a quick nor easy process.  And as a new supervisor, you have to be prepared for this reality, otherwise you are going to stumble and fall.

This is tip #4 and I have three more to come.  But what have been your experiences, either recently as a new supervisor, or thinking back a few years to when you were one?  Please share by adding your comment below, and let’s learn from each other. 

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