Donning the Supervisory Cap
This month, Greg discusses the right (and wrong) way to be an effective supervisor.
- By Greg Neilson
- March 01, 2002
has made some very pertinent points on the topic of supervision, and there
are a few I’d like to expand upon.
If you’ve been selected for a supervisory role, it’s anticipated that
you probably have a big career ahead of you; this is your chance to demonstrate
that you’re up to the task. If you can demonstrate ability in this position,
it can lead to management or other senior roles.
Something you need to remember is that high achievers who find themselves
in these leadership roles typically have a great need for success. This
is a great quality for individual contributors, but it makes things more
difficult when leading others. People with a high need for achievement
find it difficult to delegate tasks and may find themselves feeling conflicted
when their staff doesn’t do as a good a job as they think they would themselves.
I once went as far as re-assigning a task to myself when a team member
was struggling. Rather than using this as a development opportunity for
that team member, my ego couldn’t help itself—and off I went. You can
be very sure that I’d never do anything like that again! All you can do
here is be aware of these tendencies and think carefully before you act.
Remember, your team members like to know that they’re important, too.
The best approach is to treat your staff as willing volunteers; often
this means asking people to do something rather than ordering them to
do it. (Leave the ordering to the manager, if it comes to that. They often
have more ways available to influence staff behavior than you think).
I was somewhat fortunate in that I made most of my leadership mistakes
when I was leading a rock band—not in a work situation. I had to learn
to appreciate the value of everyone, even when they didn’t play their
parts the way I had originally written them. Otherwise I would soon have
ended up putting on a solo guitar show instead of leading a grooving band.
The dynamics of a band and work situation aren’t all that different.
From a manager’s point of view, a supervisor can be a great way to manage
the day-to-day issues in the team. This way, you can keep the operational
wheels turning, leaving the manager to deal with the exceptions that require
their attention. It’s important to keep your manager informed of anything
they’re likely to be asked about, particularly if it’s bad news. No one
like surprises—particularly managers. It’s also vital that you and your
manager enjoy a degree of mutual trust and confidence.
One last point. In this type of role, you’ll likely hear all manner of
confidential information about the organization, other staff and the individual
team members. It’s imperative that you keep your mouth shut and don’t
run out to tell your buddies all of the great gossip you’ve just come
across. If word ever gets out that you can’t be trusted with confidential
information, then it’s possible that you may never again be considered
for a leadership role.
So if you’re considered for a supervisory role, I urge you to think seriously
about it. It can be a great developmental step in your career—even if
you have no ambitions to move to management—and will do a great deal to
help you understand how to work with other people. No matter what your
career ambitions, to move ahead in your career you’ll need to understand
how to work with others to get things done—there’s only so much you can
do by yourself.
Greg Neilson, MCSE+Internet, MCNE, PCLP, is a Contributing Editor for MCP Magazine and a Professional Development Manager for a large IT services firm in Australia. He’s the author of Lotus Domino Administration in a Nutshell (O’Reilly and Associates, ISBN 1565927176).