Supervisory Leadership

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I am in a new position where I am finding that there has been almost 18 months without direct supervision

I am in a new position where I am finding that there has been almost 18 months without direct supervision, so pretty much I am in a region where everyone is dancing to their own drummer.

How can I make changes without being seen as the tyrant? How can I get these people to see the change as something positive? Pretty much gain their trust after they have been soo neglected by Corporate in the past.

You're in a tough situation, but research and experience give us some idea about what you can do. First, though, it's important to understand what you can't do.

You can't do everything. If your region has been left to its own devices for a year and a half, lots of things will probably need adjustment. You simply can't get to them all at once. Play for the long term and tackle the most important things first.

Second, you can't do everything right. You will make some mistakes. There will be times when you do the right thing and don't get a good result. That's true for supervisory leadership and it's true for life. Play the odds. Be persistent.

Third, you can't do what you want all the time. It's important to find out what your boss thinks are the most important problems to be solved and to report back regularly on your progress with those.

Now, what can you do?

Make sure you're clear about what kind of region you want. What do you want to be known for? How do you want your people to feel about working for you?

Your answers to those questions will be your guide-stars. They will keep you on track and they will help you speak, in sound-bites about what you want. Once you've got them, it's time to meet with the troops.

Meet with them in groups. Try to get this done as fast as you can.

Tell them that you're going to be a great region. Tell them what that means.

Tell them that you're not concerned with what they did before. That was then. You are concerned with what they do and how they perform from here on out. From today forward, you're all going to make this a great region.

Answer questions as honestly as you can. Don't over-promise. Don't agree just to likeable. It's your job to set the standards and direction.

Meet with key individuals, especially your direct reports. Tell them what you want. Ask them what their strengths are and how they can contribute. Ask them what they want and expect from you.

That may sound like a lot, but it's really just the beginning. It takes time to turn the boat around, so settle in for the long haul. Here are some things to do.

Show up a lot. That's a key characteristic of our Three Star Supervisory Leaders. That will make you familiar and give you the opportunity to re-state your key messages over and over and over. It will give you occasions to walk your talk.

Showing up a lot also gives you the opportunity to learn about your people and what they do well. That will help you when you need to discuss performance with them.

Hold people accountable for their behavior and performance. You may need to cut them a little slack as they re-learn good habits, but you need to hold folks accountable for meeting your standards.

You're in a tough position, so make sure you've got a good source of advice and support. If you've got a mentor or good friend who is a seasoned manager, seek her or him out. Ask them if they're willing to be available to discuss things with you for the next year or so.

Consider an executive coach either instead of or in addition to the above. If you choose to do that, I hope you'll consider me. I can send you more information via email.


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