Monday, July 23, 2007

The Art of Supervision

Do you remember your first major on-the-job project?  We sure do a€“ our manager handed us a project outline, said "Here you go, do this," spun on their heels and walked away.  We recall looking at the documentation and wondering if we had made a mistake in choosing management consulting as a career.  That was in 1983 and times have changed somewhat.

What we wanted and, indeed, needed then, was a supervisor skilled at, well; for lack of a better word, supervising, particularly us - the new employee; someone who could relate and explain things so we could better understand our job.  Unfortunately, too many talented professionals, cum managers, spend far too much time developing technical skills and little, if any, time developing an understanding of treating and managing people.

In order to become a successful supervisor, professionals need to build on an ability to communicate, organise, motivate and direct the work of those they supervise.  And, by strengthening this area, you seriously improve your chances for promotion.


Consider the following as necessary attributes:  


Open-door policy:  are you accessible and supportive?  If not, make time for employees to ask questions when you give them new work.  Over the long-term, this will reduce time spent explaining things later.


Big picture:  does your staff see it?  More so, do you allow them to see it?  Successful supervisors provide staff with the overall assignment view early on.  This helps staff understand their jobs better, both on a day-to-day basis and in relation to any project.


Intelligence:  after providing employees with the big picture, it would follow that you give them the detailed information needed to understand and complete the job.  As a manager, balance the need to know with their ability to absorb the information.  Don't overload too much at once, or a lot of information will become lost in the translation.  Give too little information, though, and staff will become frustrated.  Informed employees make better decisions than uninformed.  Push staff to converse; one inspiration can dramatically change the landscape.


Respect:  treat everyone with whom you come in contact with respect.  


Openly demonstrate enthusiasm:  staff seldom gets more involved in their jobs than their managers, therefore, if you display negativity about your job or a project, you can bet your subordinates will exhibit similar attitudes.  Make it a good image.


Constant feedback:  Keep staff informed on their performance, as employees that don'€™t receive feedback often fail to meet expectations.

Motivate:  The fastest way to motivate is though the positive reinforcement of telling employees when they are doing a good job.  Go the extra bit to praise good performance.


Patience:  Supervisors with patience usually develop productive staff.  Give them realistic time to complete tasks before showing impatience.  If you hired good staff, they will grow.


Widen their network:  Help all employees - new and established - develop their networks within your company and make a determined effort to introduce new staff to colleagues.  Get established staff members to help newer members widen their contacts.


Succession planning:  If you want to advance in your firm, train staff to take your place.  By assisting staff to take over your tasks will give you the opportunity to learn new concepts.  Delegate without interfering - as learning and growth don't come to employees that watch you do the work.  Have faith in employees and let them develop professionally.


See beyond the horizon:  all employees have confidence in managers that have a good grasp on the future and plan to make things work well for the firm.


There'€™s no question, technical competence is key, however, a critical and oft neglected area of professional development is managerial skill.  Those promoted solely on technical competence generally struggle and, regardless of qualifications, lose their momentum up the corporate ladder.  To maintain that impetus, concentrate on communication, organisation, motivation and how to direct the work of individuals or groups.


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