A Little Bit of Advice for New Supervisors

Nothing is as symbolic or visual as taking command in the military. At a change of command ceremony, all of the soldiers are in formation and leadership is present as the company flag is passed from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander. Accepting the flag, the incoming commander accepts responsibility for everything, absolutely everything, from that moment forth. Nothing is as scary as hundreds of eyes sizing up the incoming commander as the flag is passed nor is anything as sad as passing the flag to the next commander when the command is over.

Not many organizations have such visual or public displays but nonetheless, supervisory responsibilities move from the outgoing to the incoming regularly.  Ask seasoned managers, company commanders, supervisors, and the like, about their early days and you will hear about "the best of times and the worst of times." 

The flag is yours. So, what do you do? Well, let's ask the experts!

Donna Karlin, Fast Company Expert Blogger, provides her "three cents" of advice and these are my three favorites:

  • Don't ever forget where you were before you got here
  • Don't be a know-it-all. Because you're not perfect so get over yourself and listen, especially at the beginning. Everyone has something to learn and if you're a new leader, you need to learn more than most; even the bare basics.
  • Lead each person according to their strengths and let them be known by their talents. But figure out a commonality at the same time to bring all those talented minds together to work as one. The team might not be unique but each one making up that team, is.

And, as Linda A. Hill states in her Harvard Business Review article, "Becoming the Boss," don't go it alone.

  • Recognize that your boss is likely more tolerant of your questions and mistakes than you might expect.
  • Help your boss develop you. Instead of asking your boss to solve your problems, present ideas for how you would handle a thorny situation, and solicit his thoughts on your ideas.
  • Find politically safe sources of coaching and mentoring from peers outside your function or in another organization.

And from me:

  • Take responsibility for both the good and the bad and savor the good - you created that.
  • Surround yourself with smart people and ask lots of questions
  • Do what's right, say what needs to be said and keep those very confidential confidences just that, confidential
  • Come talk with us in HR. We are here to help.

The flag has been passed! Congratulations!