Congratulations! You’ve been promoted to supervisor. Your new position has prestige, growth opportunities, visibility, and a bigger paycheck. That’s the good news. The bad news--you’re now supervising former co-workers who may not be thrilled about your promotion.
You have a new job description with new job responsibilities. What does your manager expect from you? What are your new performance measures? What are his/her priorities? Supervisors are responsible for getting the job done through the team. Find out what the challenges your manager feels are priorities and work out a plan to make changes or improve performance. Your job as a supervisor is to help your manager meet his/her goals.
As a former “insider” you know what is working and not working your team. The day you walk in as the supervisor, you lose your insider status, and are now part of management. Remember how difficult it was when management made changes without input from the team or getting all the information? Take it slow when making changes or suggesting improvements.
You may have been the top performer on your team, but supervising others is a different story. Supervision takes a different skill set, like interpersonal communication, delegation, planning, goal setting, and coaching and counseling staff. You’ll need to learn organizational skills, how to set priorities, and how to gain the cooperation and respect of your team. Find a mentor, take some online classes and read books on management and leadership by experts. Observe effective leaders in your organization and learn from them. Ask for feedback and listen objectively to suggestions.
Some new supervisors make the mistake of sitting in their new offices and hanging out with their new peers instead of spending time with the team. You may have known your co-workers before, but you need to get to know them in a different way, and they need to get to know you. Become a collaborator instead issuing directives without team input.
As a supervisor, you are expected to know and administer company policies and procedures. Read the company handbook, policies, standard operating procedures, work instructions, and any other guidelines for your new position. You’ll need to gain credibility with your manager and the management team as well. Formerly friendly co-workers may think they can bend the rules or discard them altogether with a former team member in charge. Becoming an authentic role model is the best way to gain loyalty and respect from your new team.
No one wants to be ordered around, especially by someone who was once part of the team. Your former co-workers know your good qualities, but they also know your shortcomings. You won’t win the respect and cooperation of your team by sitting in your office, sending emails, or barking orders. Taking charge can be a daunting and uncomfortable task. Self-doubt, unease and lack of confidence can cause you to over manage to the point of driving everyone crazy. Give yourself time to grow into your new responsibilities.
New supervisors think making changes early on are the way to establish control and show they are in charge. A new manager is enough of an upheaval without changing the the way work is done, work schedules, or expectations. Change of any kind makes people anxious. Too many changes make people wonder if their jobs are subject to change as well. Take the time to learn your job and how things look from your new viewpoint. Involve the team in analyzing work processes and come up with changes together.
So you used to go out with some of your coworkers after work to the local bar for happy hour to drink the night away and complain about the boss and the crazy policies everyone hated. Or you used to text or trade rants on Facebook with other co-workers. Or had a “thing” with a co-worker. Check out the company handbook about fraternization or dating direct reports. Continuing the Friday night happy hours with your old circle won’t work now that you’re in charge. There are new rules about confidentiality, discussing company business. The promotion comes with a raise and a new title and new rules and obligations.
You are the new kid on the block, and it may take time for your new peers--the other managers and members of the management team--to accept you as their peer. Instead, they may want to give you advice, tell you what to do and correct you if you’re wrong. Instead of becoming defensive, admit that you have a lot to learn. Listen and consider the advice. Ask questions. Let them know that you respect their input and want to learn as much as possible. The easiest way to be successful is to learn from successful people.
Put your ego aside. Sure, you have a great resume, experience, and a proven track record. You worked hard for this new position and deserved to get the promotion. But no one who is part of a team achieves success alone. Acknowledge their part in your success and how that same teamwork will help you be successful as a supervisor. Your job as a supervisor is to make each team member successful by giving them the support, resources, and respect they need.
Switching roles from co-worker to supervisor is a challenge. You have to earn the respect of your team by being a leader, role model, and coach. Let the team know from the first day that you have a lot to learn in your new position. You will need their support and honest feedback, and you will give them the same.
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