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What Kind of Supervisor Do You Want to Be?

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Most of us never ask ourselves this question.  Supervisors are expected to be better at juggling than clowns riding unicycles at the circus,  so how many actually have time for deep contemplation about supervisory style?

However, success in any area of life is preceded by focusing on the things that you want.  If you aren’t clear about how you wish to be perceived, you’ll have little chance of being the supervisor you want to be.

Let’s take some time now to explore it together.  I promise it’ll take less time than it takes to discuss your weekend plans with a co-worker!  I’ll pick off a few of the top traits that you should be considering to get your ideas flowing.

Making It Happen

Most people would agree that being effective is high on the priority list of how they want to be perceived. Dictionary.com defines effective as “adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected results.”

Supervisors are hired to ensure that the work of a group of people gets accomplished. This is a crucial role that will help the organization meet its goals and/or make money.

You could select other priorities in your supervisory style that might rank above effectiveness, such as being thorough, detailed, or flawless, and these could actually be stronger drivers than being effective.

Those all sound equally important, don’t they?  But think carefully about which ones you select.

Choosing to focus on effectiveness doesn’t mean that you make significant or frequent errors; there is a minimum level of everything that you need to get by and keep your job.  However, the leverage point of effectiveness is getting the job done.

This may mean that instead of revising a report ten times, you recognize that twice may be good enough while allowing you time to coach an employee through a tough work problem that is blocking them from finishing their work.

Make sure you are thinking of qualities that are most important for your role as a supervisor rather than your role as an employee.

Getting Along

Another way to explore what type of supervisor you want to be is to think about how you want to interact with other people.

In an effort to get things done and be taken seriously, many people in supervisory positions swing to the extreme and end up being aggressive in their approach.

Aggression causes most employees to be scared to open up because they fear retribution if they do.  Aggressive supervisors are rarely told the truth, and not knowing what’s really going on can undermine a supervisor’s effectiveness.

Other supervisors place a priority on being laid-back and liked by their staff.  They’re on the other end of the spectrum and tend to gravitate toward a more passive approach.

If a supervisor is easy-going, employees likely aren’t getting the depth of feedback about their performance that will help them be their best.  This supervisory style runs the risk of being taken advantage of by ill-intentioned colleagues—to the detriment of the entire team.

I’m in favor of the middle ground style: an assertive style.  I’ve seen this style in action, and it works.  Assertive supervisors are not afraid to tell you what you need to know, but they don’t do it with a sledgehammer.

No Surprises

In regards to dealing with people and situations, it’s sometimes recommended that leaders adopt a flexible style in which the response matches the person or the situation.

Flexibility is an important characteristic when looking at how you approach work and what you allow or don’t allow.  However, I don’t believe in changing your style depending on the circumstance, and I’ll explain why.

Consistency has a calming effect on people.  Not much in the working world is consistent anymore, but knowing how your supervisor will react when you make a mistake or during a time of crisis gives you the confidence to take on challenges and reach to do better.

Making mistakes is how individuals and organizations learn and grow, and overacting in a crisis only makes matters worse and can send others into a tailspin.  So if you’re able to maintain a calm demeanor and consistently apply it in any situation, your supervisory style will support high performance.

Keep Exploring

Are you starting to get a clear vision in your mind of yourself as a superstar supervisor?

The above characteristics are just a few that are meant to kickstart your thought process when considering what kind of supervisor you want to be.  Continue brainstorming until you have a list of 10-15 possible traits.  Then narrow it down to 5-6 that you feel are most critical to your success.

Once you have your areas of focus, begin to observe how you work, and pay attention to whether your style is congruent with your intent.  Where it is not, you can work on understanding why and developing those traits you desire.

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 supervisory style and other elements supervisors may want to consider in the comment section below. I can’t wait to read your ideas!

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