The jump from Team Member to Supervisor is a huge one for most people. One day you are a member of the Team, good at what you do and confident in your position in the working world. Next day you succeed in getting the longed for promotion in your organisation – and suddenly you find yourself in a whole new world, that is often quite scary! The first hurdle you face, and it is a big one, is ‘What is this role all about?’, 'What do you expect of me?’.

People are usually appointed to the role of Supervisor because they have excelled as Team Members and they have demonstrated some qualities that indicate that they have the potential to go further. They are generally very experienced, respected by their peers and confident in their role. The newly appointed Supervisor will expect to feel a little shaky when they begin their new role. But for some, this jump to the Supervisor role becomes more like an earthquake and their confidence is badly knocked.

Address the Cause of the Uncertainty
Managers understand that this jump from Team Member to Supervisor is one of the biggest jumps on the career ladder. Many Managers want to help, and often begin by sending the Supervisor off to Supervisor Training to acquire people and performance management skills. This is like sending someone off to learn how to read maps, before you tell him that he will be using the maps to steer a ship!

The first step is to give them a good framework appreciation of the CONTEXT and the role. Tell them about the ship, the fact that they are the Captain, that they have a crew and that their role is to get the boat to the destination. Spending the first few weeks giving the new Supervisor this framework appreciation of the context and the role of the Supervisor is time well spent. This will put in the firm foundations for them to go on to become a successful and effective Supervisor.

Define the Role of the Supervisor
Use a framework to help define the Role of the Supervisor in a planned and methodical way to your newly appointed Supervisor. The framework is made up of the key topics that cover the context and the Role of the Supervisor. Remember, these are not the skills – the Supervisor can work on the Supervisor skills once he or she has a firm appreciation of the role.
Plan a series of Supervisor Training sessions with your group of new Supervisors or on a one-to-one basis – perhaps one every week for six weeks until the new Supervisor is up and running. At each one, identify a topic on the framework to train, coach and mentor your Supervisor.

Framework topics for the Role of the Supervisor could be -

1. The Purpose of the Company and the Purpose of the Supervisor’s Team. This is one of the most important framework topics for any role, and yet it is the one that most people leave out completely.

Talk your Supervisor through your Organisation, your business Purpose, your Customers, the different Departments, and how it all works together. Take them round other Departments, and let them talk to personnel in each one if possible.

Your goal is to give them a good appreciation of where the output of their Team ‘fits’ in achieving Company goals and objectives.

2. Where the Role of the Supervisor fits in the Company. Prior to being appointed, the individual will be familiar with the Company, but will have a ‘Team Member’s view’. This is similar to a person’s view when they are a child, and now we want them to have a ‘parent’s eye’ view.

Explain the Management structure to the Supervisor, in terms of the responsibility of each Manager, their objectives, goals and targets. We want the Supervisor to have a much better appreciation of the priorities of each Manager so that they will be better placed make sense of their own objectives and targets.

3. The Team Purpose, Objectives and Goals. This is the output of the Supervisor’s Team, and must be explained clearly to the Supervisor. Managers often do this, but not in a way that gives the Supervisor a clear focus. For example, a Supervisor may be told that they must achieve X output by Friday – and a day later the Supervisor is told they must change direction and deliver Y.

This is part of their working life and they must get good at shifting goals and priorities – but did you TELL them this? Ensure that your new Supervisor is helped to understand that what is expected, what they must cope with, what they must live with, and what they can change.

4. The Supervisor’s role with the Team and each Team Member. Help the Supervisor understand ‘WHO do I need to be now?’. It is useful to use good analogies and examples - like the Captain of the ship, Coach of the ball game, or any Team Captain. This helps tease out the role in terms of winning respect, encouraging others to high performance, improving the Team, using those targets positively and celebrating Team Goals. We can paint the role as an encouraging ‘can do’ one, rather than alternative bad Leadership styles.

5. The Supervisor as an Influencer - emphasise the importance of the Supervisor ‘walking the talk’ and ‘talking the talk’. From day one, the Supervisor needs to understand that their behaviour is influential.

A successful Team needs to believe their work is of value to their Customers, that their Company is worth working for and that their efforts make a difference to the Customer and the Company. Ensure the Supervisor understands that they must now send these positive messages to their Team Members. A Team will never win if the Supervisor is being negative about the Company, the Team, or the Customer. A positive ‘can do’ Team Culture comes directly from the Supervisor.

6. Team and Performance Management Processes - A Supervisor must become very competent in using your internal processes and Team processes effectively. Help the new Supervisor understand that ‘I am just not good at …’ is no longer an option! These are skills that can and must be learnt over time – but it is important to accept that they are part of the role.

Ensure that your new Supervisor received adequate training in ‘What is my Role?’ as he or she begins their role, and you will see them hit the ground running!

Author's Bio: 

Kate Tammemagi specializes in designing and running fully customized Training Courses. She has extensive experience designing and delivering customized Leadership Development Training and Supervisor Training Courses.