A new supervisor is faced with many priorities. They are all important and require your focus and energy. Among the most important are four things that, if ignored, can make a supervisor’s career much more difficult in the long run.
A new supervisor’s goals for the first two or three months are to establish authority and gain respect. It’s not a power trip. There are management theories that say supervisors should be a friend first, but in my experience it doesn’t work. A supervisor is not a peer to his workers. To establish authority and gain respect a new supervisor must focus on the following four priorities.
Introduce yourself to every employee your first day as their supervisor. Workers need to see that their supervisor is interested in what they do and in them as individuals. Use a cheerful and respectful demeanor and be sure to get their names. This will take some time, possibly all day and into the next.
A new supervisor must learn the jobs performed by the crew. A supervisor, whether new or not, loses respect if they don’t have at least a basic knowledge of tasks done in their area. If you’re fortunate you will already have experience with the positions you are now managing. If not, employees generally give time for you to learn. Don’t waste it.
A new supervisor must address even small problems. Supervise by the book. A manager must always keep eyes and ears open for anything unsafe, against company policy or that is poor workmanship. New supervisors have to be twice as vigilant to build a positive work environment. If they don’t, work crews make their own rules and eventually a bad work culture must be torn down before a good one is built.
Address problems quickly. Some employees will need formal discipline, which can be the hardest part of managing people.
A supervisor should work with an employee he just disciplined. Make it a point within the next day or two to work with the one you just wrote up. It may feel uncomfortable but it will reestablish a working relationship.
A new supervisor who begins with these four priorities will find that, after two or three months, employees have settled into the strong leadership provided. Personnel issues will have diminished and a structured workplace culture develops.
The first months are the hardest for a new supervisor. Establishing authority and gaining respect from the start makes a new supervisor’s job easier and more productive.