Here are a few tips for new supervisors that can help you motivate your team and increase efficiency. This is a continuation of our “soft skills” series. In the first session, we talked about what soft skills are and why they are important in any role. Then, we divided these skills into four segments — leadership skills, management skills, supervisor skills, and interpersonal skills.
In this session, we are going to focus on the list of supervisory skills. As we talked about in the Soft Skills session, supervisor skills are a subset of managerial skills. Recall that leaders create the vision or new path. Then managers make the navigation of that path more efficient. Well, supervisors have the same goal as the manager. However, the supervisor often doesn’t yet have the authority to make changes to processes or personnel.
Supervisors are often managers-in-training. They are responsible for the results. However, in many cases, they may not have a lot of authority yet. As a result, people skills will be important to their success.
Five Simple First Time Supervisor Tips and Skills.
The supervisor and the manager, because they have the same goal, share two key skills — organizational skills and time management. However, the remainder of the important skills for supervisors are quite different than the manager’s skills. The five key skills are the following.
- Organizational Skills
- Time Management
- Training Skills
- People Skills
Let’s cover each of these skills in a little more detail.
Organizational Skills — Look for Ways to Help Your Team Be More Efficient.
First-time supervisors often inherit their teams. If you are a first-time supervisor and you have the ability to hire and build your own team, you are a unicorn. That is very rare. So supervisors have to master the skill of organizing a team that someone else created. (Those who can do that will accel very quickly, by the way.)
A few years back, our marketing supervisor decided to hire some young people to help us with social media. One was a graphic artist who knew social media inside and out. However, she had very few programming skills. The things that the supervisor was asking her to do were very simple, but they had a lot of repetitive steps. So to help the new employee, she typed up a checklist and a flowchart and posted them into a three-ring binder. It was an easy low-tech solution to a high-tech problem.
The checklists also served as a reminder of what tasks to do next when she completed a project. By simply creating a list, the supervisor increased the efficiency of her team member and reduce idle time.
A good supervisor is the proverbial oil can that makes the machinery run more smoothly. It’s just that the machinery here is the team members. Look for ways to organize your team in a more efficient way.
Time Management — Your Goal Is to Have No Wasted Time in Your Team Members.
One of the most critical time management skills for supervisors is to priorities activities. One of the best exercises I ever came across came from Stephen Covey. His advice was to dive a piece of paper into four equal quarters. In the first quadrant, write down things that you do that are both important and urgent. Then, in the second quadrant, write down things you do that are important but not yet urgent. Third, write down things that urgent but not important. Then, finally, in the last quadrant write down things that are neither important nor urgent.
When you create your chart, spend some time listing the tasks and jobs you do each day. Then place them in the correct quadrant on the chart. You will be shocked at how many of your activities fall into the last quadrant. You want to STOP doing these activities altogether. Quadrant four activities include scrolling through social media or chatting with coworkers.
The third quadrant includes things that should be minimized or avoided. For instance, I used to have news alerts appear on my phone. This feed alert was identical to message alerts from my clients. So, when I would hear the alert, I’d stop what I was doing immediately to see what it was about. The message seemed urgent because of the alert. However, really, the alert wasn’t important at all.
Once you identify the items in quadrants one and two, these are the things that you want to schedule with your team. Start with the quadrant one items. Then, plan and organize the quadrant two items before they become urgent. Next, identify the triggers for the not important but urgent items and eliminate them.
Communication — You Are the Conduit Between Management and the Team.
As the supervisor, you are the conduit between management and your team. So your communication skills have to be top-notch. These skills include providing needed information to your team in a timely manner. In addition, though, a major part of the first-time supervisor is to listen to your team. Your observations are critical to helping management make more informed decisions.
For example, let’s say that management creates a new policy to fix a past challenge. Because you know your team well, you anticipate your team reacting negatively to the change. If you go to your team and just tell them that “Management changed the policy,” you will be right. They will react negatively.
Instead, you may want to meet with your team and tell them about the problem that is trying to be solved. Then, soften the blow by explaining how management created the new policy to solve the problem. Finally, ask them if they can think of any better solutions. If they come up with one, bring that solution to management. On the other hand, if they don’t then they will at least know why management changed the policy.
Interactions and communication like this keep the team from experiencing the “Us vs. Them” mentality.
Training Skills — The Success of Your Team Depends on Your Ability to Train Them.
One of the most important supervisor tips is to strengthen your training skills. As a supervisor, you must focus on two important components related to this skill. First, you must be able to assess the knowledge and skill level of your team members. Second, once you identify any needed training, you need to be able to help your team members gain the needed skills.
This process can take some time, but your effort will be well rewarded. Make a list of the skills and knowledge needed for each job description within your team. For instance, we have account managers at our office. This position has a lot of different job roles. They answer questions for customers, create price quotes, consult with them, and also provide customer service. In addition, they have a role in marketing and social media. Finally, they have administrative duties related to revenue and cost reporting.
Once the supervisor has the lists of roles and responsibilities, the next step is to assess the team in these areas. Each member of the team is going to be good at some tasks and not-so-good at others. So, you want to rate each member based on where they are now in each job role. You might just rate them on a scale of one to 10. For instance, on “Being able to answer questions for customers,” Joan has a lot of experience, so she is an eight. However, Jim is still new to the position, currently, he is a four out of 10.
Finally, go through your team list one more time. This time, assess each on their potential. Going back to the previous example, Joan is an eight out of 10. However, she is the most senior person on the team and set in her ways. As a result, her potential may also be an eight out of 10. Jim, on the other hand, is newer and eager. He wants to learn. His potential is a nine. The supervisor will want to spend time training Ben so that he is more likely to reach his potential.
People Skills — Supervisors Must Stay in Rapport with Both the Team and Management.
“I think the lie we’ve told people in the marketplace is that a degree gets you a job. A degree doesn’t get you a job. What gets you a job is the ability to carry yourself into that room and shake a hand and look someone in the eye and have people skills. These are the things that cause people to become successful.” — Dave Ramsey
As the conduit between management and your team, you will need to stay in rapport with both groups. This requires you to have great people skills. Human nature tells us that when someone slights us, we must respond in anger. However, a person with good people skills will often pause to think through a proper response. Ultimate the more trust that the other person has in you, the more that other person will like you.
My first boss was a guy named Jeff who was a retired military officer that purchased a franchise. As a retired officer, he knew the value of building his team members. He and his wife created a fun rewarding environment. We actually enjoyed going to work even though the work was hard. A year or so after I was hired, Jeff sold the franchise back to the company and retired again. The company decided to use the location as a training ground for new managers. Each of these managers had four years of university training but no real practical experience supervising anyone.
The contrast in atmosphere was absolute torture. Morale plummeted. Within six months, the entire staff had turned over almost 100%.
Next week, we will conclude this series with an entire session on interpersonal skills (people skills.) We will cover a few of the challenges that these managers-in-training made and how to fix them!