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I realized the other day that being a supervisor is a lot like being a parent. No one really trains you how to be either, but both roles are really important to the health and wellbeing of your family or organization.

Most parents and supervisors simply learned the ropes by repeating what their parents/former supervisor did. But this can really backfire if your parents (who also had no formal training) and former supervisor weren’t very good in their roles.

I often would say I learned how to supervise by how I was supervised. I had a number of supervisors who failed to meet my needs and led from the power perspective. So, when I became a supervisor, I did the opposite of whatever they did.

However, doing the opposite is not learning how to supervise, or being able to effectively meet all the needs of my staff.

I have spoken to so many leaders who have admitted they have never been formally taught how to supervise. They have learned by trial and error and the mistakes they made along the way. The problem with this method is the mistakes impact people.

My supervisory experience has taught me that the key to providing high level and effective services is having a strong team. The question is, how can you have a strong team if you haven’t been trained to develop, import, support, intercultural dynamics, unreality, motivation and self-awareness?

Why do we require degrees, disciplines and terminal degrees for leadership positions but there is no requirement to demonstrate effective supervision competency? The only evidence required is that the candidate has supervised. We don’t ask if they were effective, supportive, or culturally competent.

Sharing Some Lessons

In my coaching sessions and trainings I always like to share some lessons I’ve learned along the way about how to supervise effectively. I offer up some of those lessons to you now.

 Don’t try to be Everyone’s Friend

Being friendly and being a friend are two different things. While I encourage you to be a warm, caring person, the goal is not to be popular and have everyone like you. Supervisors have to sometimes be the bad guy or gal that disciplines and shares bad news.

Ask for Feedback

When you become a supervisor, you don’t instantly have all of the answers. Being omniscient is not your responsibility. Your responsibility is to leverage the resources, human and otherwise, at your disposal for the greater good of the organization. If you don’t have information you need, ask for it.

Keep Learning and Improving

Becoming a leader does not mean you’ve “made it” and can now stop learning. On the contrary, now is the time to continue growing and acquiring necessary skills, like people and communication skills.

Get Comfortable Saying “No”

You cannot possibly say yes to everyone, so start getting very comfortable saying no. Trust me – it gets easier.

Learn How to Manage Change

Change is inevitable. You will find you and your team all get on the same page and get into a rhythm and suddenly…. CHANGE happens… and you’ve got to start all over again. One of your biggest roles will be as a change manager. Agility is important in business.

Learn to Delegate

Get over the idea that supervisors have to be superheroes! The idea is not for you to do everything by yourself but to delegate tasks to responsible team members.

Becoming an effective supervisor is about developing your team. When your team is able to do the work that needs to get done, then you are able to attend trainings and go to important meetings.

If you would like one-on-one leadership coaching, get in touch with me. I help supervisors become the best version of themselves, so they can help others do the same.

 In-person supervision bootcamps coming in January 2019.

Debra Y. Griffith

Dean of Student Equity and Success at West Valley Community College

Consultant | Speaker | Coach |Strategist |Trainer