The Four Biggest Mistakes Companies Make About Supervision, and
How You an Avoid Them
No single factor predicts
productivity for an employee more than his or her direct relationship
with the immediate supervisor. You don't' have to believe me on
that one, you can ask the Gallup organization, which did a major
study of productivity and supervision. If you want to increase productivity,
and profitability, and long-term competitive advantage, the best
thing you can do is make sure that your organization has great first-line
There's good news and
bad news here. The bad news is that most organizations simply don't
pay attention to supervision. They make four really critical mistakes.
The good news is that if you can avoid those mistakes and create
great supervision for yourself, you can spring ahead in the race
against the competition.
Lots of organizations
act like supervision isn't important. What about you?
If you want the key
to productivity, it's not in the executive suite, it's out in the
field, and at the reception desk, and in the call center, and on
the factory floor. That's where the real work gets done and the
critical day-by-day decisions get made. And, that's where supervision
has its impact.
Alas, even though some
organizations give lip service to the importance of supervision,
hardly any act like they really believe what they're saying. This
might require a basic shift in your thinking; but if you can make
that shift, it can pay off big time. Vow Ð right Ð now to review
the way your organization selects, trains, and supports your supervisors.
Then start making changes immediately to make your supervision better.
Lots of organizations
don't tie compensation, and praise, and promotions to supervisory
work. What about you?
I've worked with organizations
for over thirty years, and one of the things I've found is that
an awful lot of the way supervisors are evaluated has absolutely
nothing to do with their work as supervisors. To check this out
in your organization, pick up the job description for your supervisors
and pick up the form that you use for performance evaluation.
If your organization
is like many that I've seen, you're going to evaluate that supervisor
on all kinds of stuff. But the odds are that you're not going to
be spending the critical mass of necessary time and evaluation and
training on the core job of the supervisor, which is to supervise.
Supervisors deal with
individuals and tasks on a routine basis. If they are doing that
and doing it well, they need to be rewarded with praise, compensation,
and promotion. Otherwise, you are just blowing smoke.
Lots of organizations
don't train their supervisors in supervision. What about you?
Several years ago, I
worked with a fairly large organization that told me at the outset
that they had a great supervisory training program. I asked to sit
in on it. The program for new supervisors took three full days.
During that three days,
all kinds of people paraded in front of the new supervisors. They
learned all kinds of things. The only thing they didn't learn was
the basics of supervision.
So what did they spend
the three days on? They spent the three days on policies and procedures
and technical manuals. They spent the three days getting exhorted
to motivate, but they didn't learn how to do the five critical jobs
that every supervisor has to do.
If you want to improve
supervision where you work, make sure that new supervisors get training.
Some of that will happen in the classroom. Some of it won't.
It turns out that being
responsible for a group, which includes supervision as well as management
and leadership, is something of an apprentice trade. In research
that I've done, it's been interesting to note the "family tree"
of great supervisors. In one organization where I regularly did
the training, we got to see several generations of one of those
One exercise in the
training program was for the newly promoted supervisors to identify
a great supervisor they'd had in the past. Even though this organization
had well over a hundred first-line supervisors working, only about
seven names came up consistently.
And guess what? When
we talked to those seven that everybody thought was great, among
them they had about a similar number of great supervisors that were
their role models.
A good training program
for supervisors deals with classroom training in the five basic
jobs of supervision and the skills necessary to get those jobs done.
It also should include some kind of field training with excellent
supervisors responsible for helping new supervisors make the transition
Lots of organizations
simply don't pay attention to the transition. What about you?
You hear a lot about
how it's lonely at the top, but hardly anything about how lonely
it is when you are a new supervisor, and someone you thought was
your best friend is asking you for a favor you really can't grant.
The fact is, that there
are two massively tough transitions in business. We've heard a lot
about one of them. It's the transition to CEO. The other massively
difficult transition is the one from individual contributor to supervisor.
With all the other transitions
and promotions in business, there are lots of new things to learn,
but the support group that you've had at one level generally will
help you along at the next level. With the transition to CEO and
the transition to supervision, not only do you have lots to learn
about how to do the job, but many of your sources of day-to-day
support simply aren't available any longer.
In my research, I've
found that it takes somewhere between eighteen months and two years
for an individual contributor to make the transition to being an
effective supervisor. During that time, he or she makes certain
characteristic mistakes. If you can provide training for people
at that crucial time, you'll dramatically increase the likelihood
that they will move up to being top supervisors, and your company
will move up to being tops in your industry.
Bottom Line: Lots of
organizations talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. What about
You can talk all you
want, but what do you do? Do you act like supervision is important?
Do you tie compensation, praise and promotion to good supervisory
work? Do you train your supervisors in supervisory skills and help
them make a successful transition from individual contributor to
The way you answer those
questions could determine whether you and your organization succeed
in today's tough environment.
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