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Andi Gray: Teaching a new supervisor to supervise correctly

Andi Gray supervisorWe have a new supervisor who is used to having her hand in everything. She was a great team leader, helping her co-workers to get better at what they do. We have high hopes for her as a supervisor, but she’s got a lot to learn. If she is going to manage the back, she can’t be doing day-to-day work. How do we help her get through the transition?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: The main job of supervision is to evaluate work and improve results through discussions, visits and oversight. Build key performance indicators (KPI) that your supervisor can use to report on how things are going. Get out of the supervisor’s way as she learns how to do her job.

Make sure you have a job description for your supervisor. Include responsibilities for goal setting for her unit, understanding company goals and how her area fits into those goals, and for organizing the work in the most efficient manner possible.

Make sure your supervisor has put in place processes for how things should get done and that she has follow-up to ensure people use those processes. And a teaching method for getting people to improve at the processes for which they’re responsible.

Knowing exactly what is expected is a powerful management tool, both up and down line. Define expectations with KPIs. Establish a series of measures that are useful for demonstrating how things are going on the shop floor. For example, how many units per hour are produced? What is the waste factor? What is the error rate?

Ask the supervisor to measure results on the shop floor and report on where things are today. Then ask her to set goals for three months from now. Getting her to focus on improving results and reporting on outcomes in many areas may keep her busy enough that she doesn’t have time to have her hands deep into everything that’s going on.

Make sure your supervisor is actually giving up control to the people who work for her. For someone used to doing the job, it’s so tempting to want to have hands on everything. But a good supervisor has to back away and get the people under her functioning independently. And that will only happen if she lets go, lets people make mistakes and holds people accountable for figuring out how to fix the problems they create.

Check on your supervisor’s training skills. Sounds like she has a pretty good start technically. Make sure she can go all the way with educating people on what to do without stepping in to do it herself.

Share your own experiences at learning to supervise, if you can remember. War stories can be a powerful teaching tool. Think back to when you first wore supervisor shoes and the challenges you ran into. Sharing some of those experiences, good and bad, will help you and your supervisor identify with each other, which will be a foundation you can use to coach her on improving skills.

Check in with the shop floor periodically. How are things going there? Does your supervisor have an independent, confident work group that is focused on improving things? That’s the goal! If you see problems, address them with the supervisor one on one, giving her examples of how else she might handle situations. Help her to understand that this job is one she’s learning to master and that she has time to get it right as long as she keeps making improvements.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “The Supervisors Companion: A practical guide for new (and lightly trained) supervisors” by Jeanne Thomas Hugg.

Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., StrategyLeaders.com, a business-consulting firm that teaches companies how to double revenue and triple profits in repetitive growth cycles. Have a question for AskAndi? Wondering how Strategy Leaders can help your business thrive? Call or email for a free consultation and diagnostics: 877-238-3535 or AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com. Check out our library of business advice articles at AskAndi.com.

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