The step up from employee to supervisor has always been a big one. Taking on new assignments, getting work done through others, shifting from buddy to boss – any one of these transitions is a handful. Together, they can be overwhelming, as any novice supervisor knows.
In the past, new supervisors could learn the ropes in their first few months in the role. Managers and other supervisors might point out pitfalls or even step in when things got rough.
Today, though, it’s a new world.
Changes in the workplace, with the recession mantra of “do more with less,” thrust new supervisors into pivotal roles with little time to get up to speed. For many, daunting demands outweigh the thrill of promotion. Today, most new leaders are drowning in expectations.
3 new realities for new managers
Along with traditional challenges, new supervisors must contend with three new realities:
- An uncommitted, diverse, and increasingly cynical workforce;
- Constantly changing job duties;
- More demands from the organization.
Since these realities are likely to linger, even as the U.S. economy stabilizes and eventually grows, every new supervisor must learn to live with them.
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New supervisors must motivate others, adapt to challenging situations (and help others do the same), understand organizational goals to set work priorities, establish productive relationships with managers, and delegate effectively.
3 hallmarks distinguish successful managers
But how can a freshly-minted supervisor do all this? In an ever-changing work environment, three hallmarks distinguish successful from struggling first-time leaders:
- Hallmark 1: Personal credibility. To earn respect, a new supervisor must show respect – a daily effort that builds trust and supports long-term collective effort. When supervisors admit that they don’t know everything, when they leverage the experience of their team, and when they follow through on their commitments, others tend to give them the benefit of the doubt and remain open to evolving ideas and directives.
- Hallmark 2: An engaged and productive team. An effective new supervisor inspires and focuses energy and creativity by setting goals that team members see as worthwhile, by showing the team how their work fits into the bigger picture, and by establishing clear performance expectations. Effective new supervisors delegate tasks and responsibilities they once owned, and encourage team members to apply their own ingenuity toward mutually understood goals. As a result, these supervisors help create an environment that motivates the whole team to succeed.
- Hallmark 3: Strong management support. Managing upward is vital to supervisory success – not just pleasing the boss, but maintaining a mutually supportive relationship. Effective new supervisors find out what’s important, deliver on those items, and bring solutions as well as problems. Whether in person, on the phone, or via e-mail, successful new supervisors maintain ongoing dialogue to clarify the manager’s needs and ask for necessary help.
Given the new realities, organizations continue to need supervisors who exhibit these hallmarks to help their teams support critical initiatives.
Other skills come later – coaching, for example, resolving disputes, correcting performance, or conducting performance reviews – but the three hallmarks will remain the foundation of both early and long-term supervisory success.