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December 21, 2007

HR Fact Friday: 15 Tips for a New Supervisor (part 2 of 2)

Filed under: General HR Buzz3:31 pm

In a continuation of yesterday’s posting . . . here are tips 6 – 15 from the HRN white paper entitled “Congratulations! You’re a Supervisor. Now What?”. Tips 1-5 were posted 12/20. To view and download the complete white paper go to: http://www.hrnonline.com/promo/freeNewsletter.asp. Click on the “Current Whitepaper” link. You can also quickly sign up to receive free monthly HR industry white papers.

Here are tips 6 – 15 from the HRN white paper entitled “Congratulations! You’re a Supervisor. Now What?”. Tips 1-5 were posted yesterday 12/20.


6. Your success is now based on the success of the team you lead. Up to now your skill set and personal performance were all you needed to be successful. Those days are over. You must take a back seat. It’s all about the team. Clearly communicate to team members what their roles are and how they contribute to the success of the whole. Clearly communicate to the team what defines success and how it will be tracked and measured. Share results. Let the team know how they are performing. Take satisfaction and have pride in the accomplishments of your team members. Provide recognition for jobs well done. Take pride in recognizing individual and team performances and communicating these accomplishments to others in the organization.

7. Groom for growth. One of your key supervisory responsibilities (and area of personal job satisfaction) is grooming and preparing deserving members of your staff to grow and develop in areas that will further benefit them and the company. How can you expect your staff to grow and develop new skills if they are not provided the opportunity to perform new tasks or take on increased responsibilities?

8. Manage and measure performance. Learn your staff’s strengths and future career development goals. Prepare a simple development plan with achievable goals for each employee. Similarly, request copies of your staff’s personnel file to review. Take note of any past or ongoing disciplinary issues, and areas requiring improvement. Learn how your company measures employee performance and keep good records and notes on each employee’s performance. Let each employee know how their performance will be measured. Be concise, fair, and honest in your evaluation using examples wherever necessary. Always complete and conduct performance appraisals on time.

9. Delegate. Effective delegation is a significant milestone in the development of a savvy and productive supervisor. Because it will take you three hours to train someone to do an administrative task you can do in an hour is no reason to keep doing it yourself. The few hours of time you invest in training to delegate non-supervisory administrative tasks will save you time and increase your overall efficiency. Of course there are tasks that should not be delegated. They are your responsibility alone to complete. Delegating them would send the wrong message. But clearly there are administrative, or project related tasks that can be delegated to staff members with skill sets equal to the task requirements. Sure, staying late each night, and doing it all yourself is a way to get noticed by senior management but it also conveys that’s the only way you know how to get ahead, have time management issues, and don’t trust your staff to do any of the work. Working hard is not always working smart.

10. Roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches. The price of leadership sometimes requires you to set an example by taking off your supervisory hat and stepping in alongside your staff to contribute towards achieving a team objective. Warning, don’t make this a habit and send the wrong message. In a pinch, such as someone calling in sick or during a peak order period you can step in, but on a day-to-day basis your staff must understand they are responsible for meeting their performance goals and your job is to make sure they have the resources, tools, and processes to achieve these goals.

11. Stay out in front. Keep in touch with the reality of what’s going out there on the “shop floor”. Do daily 1-2 minute status checks with your staff. Is everything on schedule or do they have any concerns that will affect the deadline? Communicate to your staff the understanding that it is okay to let you know about problems when there is adequate time to implement a solution. You want and need to know so you can stay out in front of a potential problem. It’s not okay to wait till the eleventh hour to raise a red flag and inform you of a problem. You don’t want to be surrounded by “yes men” and be assured all is okay today only to have the wheels fall off tomorrow. Your staff must know that it’s okay to tell you when problems arise. Staying in front also means you are looking ahead and identify, plan, and address future budgetary, staff, or resource issues that could affect the success of your team. Don’t let yourself get caught up putting out fires on a day-to-day basis and take your eye off the horizon. If your team doesn’t have supplies or equipment, they can’t build widgets. Like you, your boss also needs to know if there is something he or she must be aware of to provide support that will help you achieve your goals.

12. Don’t play the blame game. Be Accountable. In a modern work environment there are complex processes, systems, and diverse functions that intricately mesh together to bring a product to market or provide a service that generates revenue. Invariably things will occur somewhere that reflect negatively on you and your team. The impulse will be to get defensive and find blame. Blame, even if justifiably directed does not fix a problem. In the heat of the moment, stay calm and be in control of your words and actions. Whenever possible take the discussion to a more private location to plan a course of action. As a supervisor and professional, you can’t simply shrug your shoulders and say, “oh well”, you must set an example of doing whatever it takes and is within your control to remedy the situation. How you deal with adversity will define how you are viewed as a leader. There is plenty of time later to hash out what went wrong and who dropped the ball. Direct conversation and action towards a solution and away from blame.

13. Take one (or two, or three) for the team. When overtime or weekend work is necessary to meet a deadline, the absolute worst thing you can do to destroy any credibility you have gained is to say to your staff, “I’m not coming in because I don’t get paid by the hour any more and you do.” As a supervisor your most important function is the day to day management and leadership of your team. If you expect members of your team to give up their personal time to come in to work, you must exhibit the same willingness. And even though nobody thanks you for coming in on Saturday or staying late, be sure to thank each member of your team for being there.

14. Earn and maintain trust. Trust and respect is more important to a supervisor than being everybody’s buddy. What you don’t say can be as important as what you do say. As a supervisor you will receive and have access to information that is confidential. Keep in confidential. Do not gossip about coworkers. Avoid or redirect conversations that are of a personal nature about coworkers or critical of company operations. If something is told to you in confidence by a coworker, keep it private (unless there is a legal obligation or safety concern requiring you to alert HR or senior management). Express appreciation and acknowledgement of individual staff and team achievements publicly. Express dissatisfaction with an individual’s performance privately and keep the matter private. Once again it is emphasized as a supervisor what you don’t say can be as important as what you do say. Use discretion.

15. Being a defendant is no fun. Did you know that as a supervisor of employees you can be held personally liable for a long list of employment law offenses that can result in hefty fines and/or jail time? To compound the matter each state may have a different statute. Sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, workplace violence, drugs, alcohol & firearms, gender, age, religious, lifestyle discrimination, work safety conditions, disability accommodation, medical conditions, overtime, etc. etc.; the list is endless and the penalties can be severe. How can you possibly know the right thing to say or do in every situation? The answer is to seek out and get supervisory training. Talk to your HR dept. READ and reread the company policy manual. Become informed. The other thing you must do is keep thorough documentation on your staff involving disciplinary, corrective action, or termination.

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