Six Key Principles For New Supervisors

Annette Dubrouillet's picture

Okay, so you’ve been promoted to a supervisory position and you want to be successful but, dang, it’s tough out there, right? Here are some guidelines to help you through the maze.

Principle One: Don’t try to handle all situations by yourself. Find a support system. Don’t function in a vacuum.  There are people out there who have been through this before. And there are people out there who care about you and want you to be successful.  Go find them and seek out their counsel. It may mean finding a mentor or it may mean creating a mastermind group of other first-time supervisors.

Principle Two: Don’t expect to be perfect. Allow yourself to make mistakes. You will mess up. Everyone does. It is inevitable. But you don’t have to just “make it through” a mistake. You can actually come out better for it, provided you learn from your mistakes. The biggest mistake you can make is beating up on yourself when you make a mistake. When you do mess up, stop and ask yourself what you did wrong to begin with and what can you do differently in the future to keep you from making that same mistake. It’s a learning situation, not a time for beating up on yourself.

Principle Three: Don’t think you know it all. Continue to learn. When I was a teacher for deaf teenagers, the classroom next to me was occupied by a teacher who pretended to know how to use sign language really well. She would never admit that she wasn’t very good at it. The students didn’t respect or want to listen to her at all. They would tell me, “Why should we learn from her? She doesn’t want to learn anything.” Same goes for staff everywhere. Why should they learn from you if you aren’t willing to be a learner as well? Remember, you are the role model for learning and changing behavior.

Principle Four: Don’t expect instant acceptance. Give people time to adjust. You’ve had a new boss before, haven’t you? You probably had to change your style to meet his or her needs; maybe even down to what color pen you use to write notes to them. No wonder people resist change in the workplace. Educate yourself on the stages of change, how to help people move through change and then you facilitate their moving through the change. Here’s another chance to be a role model. Show your concern, consistency and your commitment. That will help a lot with their acceptance of you.

Principle Five: Don’t make a big deal over little stuff. Know what battles to fight. You will meet resistance and while you shouldn’t let anyone walk all over you, you don’t have to make every situation a major battle. Start with knowing where your bottom lines are and let people know you will stick to those bottom lines.  How do you find your bottom lines? They come from your values, morals and ethics. Trust yourself. You know what is right and what is wrong. Staff wants to know you are a moral person and will protect yourself and them when you need to.

Principle Six: Acquire positive decision-making skills. If you’re like about 95 percent of the population you have never had formal training in how to make a good decision. And now you’re being asked to make decisions in the workplace on a regular basis. Three things you need to learn:

  1. What type of decision-maker are you and how can you broader that scope as much as possible
  2. How to implement a step-by-step decision-making process
  3. What are the external factors (and sometimes internal) that can impact your decisions. Then take the time to work through decisions, not just hope you are doing the right thing.

Being a new supervisor has lots of challenges, but if you face them in a logical, systematic and humane fashion, you can help but be a success.

(Annette Dubrouillet works with groups and individuals who want to make the best decision the first time. She is the author of Make No Mistake: How to Make the Best Decision the First Time, which is available directly from Annette or through Catch Annette in person for her “Supervising 101” session at EFAM 2013 in Anaheim, Calif., July 27-31.)