One of the biggest challenges faced by new supervisors is moving from an individual contributor to supervising others, and there are key skills and competencies required to successfully make the shift. In my earlier post Tips for Spotting Talent and Ensuring a Successful Transition, I discussed how to choose the right candidates for supervisory positions. Now that you’ve got a new supervisors in place, let’s explore the key capabilities to develop as they grow into the role.
Based on my work internally and externally with organizations, the following capabilities routinely trip up the new supervisor. I became aware of these pitfalls years ago upon reading The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company. As authors Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel pointed out, individual contributors generally have deep technical expertise and becoming a supervisor requires a pivot to meeting goals and objectives through others. Since new supervisors are critical to your organization’s success, investing in them is a smart strategy that will pay dividends.
Overwhelm can quickly set in as new supervisors must balance the needs of their direct reports with getting their personal work done. Learning how to set boundaries and create space for unexpected issues takes practice and strong communication skills.
Learning how to effectively delegate will help to ensure that goals are met and direct reports are learning new skills. Former individual contributors are accustomed to doing it themselves and may see this approach as more efficient. Instead they’re robbing a direct report of a learning moment and sabotaging their ability to manage time.
Two-way communication will help new supervisors learn about their team members, encourage problem solving and provide occasions to reinforce and share organizational information. Often times, new supervisors see frequent communication with their direct reports as taking too much time rather than an opportunity to increase commitment and productivity.
Set Goals and Objectives
Setting SMART goals creates a framework for new supervisors to focus on what is important and helps them to balance the work ahead with activities that can knock them off course. While most employees have heard about SMART goals, helping new supervisors to really commit, write them down and follow up on them is the tricky part.
Ask for Help
New supervisors want to succeed and they can often feel uncomfortable when it comes to asking for help. They assume you put them in the role because you believe they can accomplish the job. As an individual contributor they may have been very successful working independently. Helping them to understand that being vulnerable and seeking assistance in healthy and necessary.
So how can you help these supervisors develop these skills?
- Encourage new supervisors to connect with each other and more experienced peers. Provide a framework for this group to share best practices, mistakes made and organizational resources. Brown bag lunches are great for this.
- Support new supervisors with feedback and coaching as you observe them trying these skills on the job. End each discussion with, “How can I help you achieve success in your new role?” Opening the door to help signals permission to ask. Set up regular touch-points.
- Inspire new supervisors to participate in instructor led training that is provided by your organization or offered outside of your organization. You’ll find many cost effective offerings in your community and this provides the possibility of learning from the external world.
Once you’ve chosen the best people to lead the various teams, be sure to invest in their success. By teaching and modeling these 5 supervisory skills, your new supervisors will be on their way to helping your organization achieve its goals. You will also be filling your leadership pipeline today for tomorrow’s talent needs and growth.