business lifestyle shot of a young adult woman as she sits in a meeting with her supervisor (Photodisc)

    business lifestyle shot of a young adult woman as she sits in a meeting with her employee (Photodisc)

Most first level supervisors, whether they have been supervising others for years or are newly promoted, have a common difficulty. They don’t recognize that a first level supervisor must master interpersonal skills including one-on-one conversations and relationship building.  Most supervisors get caught up in the technical aspects of completing the required work, scheduling tasks, filling out duty rosters, assigning staff members to work orders, and rolling up their sleeves and doing a great deal of the work themselves.  But that is not the proper leadership role for a first level supervisor.  Yes, he or she needs to ensure the tactical and operational work is completed; however, the best way for a supervisor to make sure this happens is to teach, train, and coach his or her employees.  Many supervisors consider “people” issues to be a huge distraction and interruption to their ability to get the daily tasks done. Until the supervisor’s mindset shifts to recognizing that the people and relationship aspects of the job ARE the daily task of a supervisor, he or she will never become a leader.  Stuck as a supervisor or manager who is not a leader, many supervisors come to regret ever being promoted.

With this in mind, the optimal training and development work for a first level supervisor who wants to become a better leader include the following:

  1. Discovering Your Communication and Leadership Style. Supervisors who understand their own style, and who learn to adapt that style to develop excellent relationships and working rapport with the employees who report to him are already on the pathway to becoming excellent at coaching, teaching, and training employees through one-on-one conversations.
  2. Motivating and Inspiring Others. Optimal motivation comes from within, so many people do not believe a supervisor can motivate the employees who report to her.  However, a supervisor who gets to know her employees in order to understand what motivates each staff member, will be able to help create an environment that allows the employees to be motivated and to recognize how their motivations align with the team, department, or organization.
  3. Performance Management. Using the power of frequent, ongoing conversations with employees about the good, the bad, and the unusual quirks of their performance is a key skill all supervisors need to learn.  If a supervisor dreads annual performance evaluation meetings, avoids addressing employees who have performance or conduct problems, and tries to hide or cover up performance issues, this is a sign that supervisor would benefit from learning how to use powerful one-on-one conversations to address employee performance.
  4. Delegation. The one thing that holds back most first level supervisors from being promoted to higher levels within an organization is the inability to effectively delegate.  Supervisors may benefit from learning Situational Leadership principles including when to direct, teach, coach, and delegate.
  5. Leading Teams. Supervisors who are able to lead cross-functional, collaborative, or department teams and who learn to deal with dysfunctional or ineffective teams will be well on their way to becoming more influential and respected throughout the organization.  A supervisor who is a great team leader is often ready for the next promotional step.