3 Powerful Questions to Help Supervisors Be Their Best

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In a previous article, What Makes a Remarkable Supervisor?, we spent time thinking about what type of supervisors we wanted to be. We explored some examples of traits and behaviors that are important when supervising other people.

Now that you have a good idea of how you want to be perceived, and you’ve begun to align your words and actions with this new vision, how do you know if others see you the way you intend?

The only way to know for sure is to ask, which can obviously be a little intimidating.  Okay, maybe a lot intimidating.

You might feel this will open the door to a litany of complaints or like you already know how you come across to your employees and colleagues.

My experience is that supervisors are usually surprised at the compliments they receive from their employees.  They tend to also be surprised about the suggestions they get for what they could do differently.

There is a way to collect this information that will ensure safety for you and those you are asking while making sure you the input you need so you can grow.

Who to Ask

Although your goal is to develop your supervisory skills, I suggest surveying not only the people who report to you but also your peers and supervisors.

These individuals observe how you interact with others in the workplace and do so from a neutral perspective. Also, by examining their perceptions of you versus employees’ perceptions of you, you will be provided additional insights that just one group of people may not have been able to provide.

If you are being perceived in a similar manner by everyone, you have a high level of consistency. This is good. It means that you’re acting authentically.

If you seem one way to one group and different to another, you are likely unconsciously not being genuine. People pick up on this, and it will erode trust.

Asking So They’ll Want to Give

An HR Consultant typing an email to a recruiter in Lansing Michigan.

Rather than springing the question on someone in person, only to stand and stare at them until they give you an answer, soliciting feedback in the written form is usually much more comfortable for the other person.

This doesn’t have to be a high-tech web-driven survey or a form you designed beautifully in a graphic design program. Keep it simple, or you’ll never do it!

A short email requesting their feedback will do the trick. If there is a lack of trust in your department or organizational culture, you may choose to use an online tool that will preserve anonymity.

How you introduce your request is important to set the right tone. People will naturally approach this wondering how they’ll be impacted by responding. Specifically, they’ll be concerned about whether they could be hurt by it. If that is their focus, you won’t get the most honest responses.

Provide reassurance with a short introduction such as:

I’m focused on being highly effective as a supervisor, so I’d like to get constructive feedback on my supervisory strengths and areas of development from people who work closely with me.  It will be used for my self-development only.  Please be as honest and specific as you can.  I consider your feedback a gift, so thank you in advance for the present!”

By assuring the individual that this is something you’re doing voluntarily and that you truly want them to be honest, it will increase your chances that 1) they’ll respond and 2) they’ll be transparent.

Continue, Stop, Start

The simplest request for feedback I’ve seen asks the following three simple questions:

1) What am I doing that I should continue doing?

2) What am I doing that I should stop doing?

3) What am I not doing that I should start doing?

The first question provides the opportunity for them to start by sharing something you are doing well. That will enable them to feel more comfortable when it comes to giving you ideas for changes. It also eases you into any suggestions for changes.

The second question will solicit the things that are not working well or are simply a waste of your time in their perspective.

Finally, the third question will give you specific ideas of policies you could put in place or behaviors you could start demonstrating that they feel would make you more effective.

This is such a quick, easy way to gain insight into how others see you that you’ll want to consider using it multiple times throughout the year!

Reward vs. Risk

After reading the how-to’s above, if the thought of others providing their perspective seems too uncomfortable, ask yourself why.A manager asking her HR consultant for feedback.

What is the worst that can happen? What am I afraid of?

Once you put a name to the thing you are afraid of, it often seems much smaller, less significant, or downright untrue!

If that doesn’t work, play devil’s advocate with yourself. “If there is anything negative for someone to say about me, wouldn’t I rather hear feedback and have a chance to correct course prior to any formal performance evaluation or coworker complaint?”

Remember that getting better at what you do is not only good for you and your career, but it has a direct impact on those you supervise and the organization you work for.

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts about how to gather feedback on how you’re doing as a supervisor that others may want to consider in the comment section below. I look forward to reading your thoughts!

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