You promoted a superstar employee to a supervisory role. She now manages the people who were once her peers, and while she exhibits strong leadership potential, she’ll likely need guidance along the way.
This change in the power dynamic can be awkward, and even problematic, for employees and the newly anointed supervisor. There are common pitfalls that, if avoided, can promote a smoother transition and a healthy working environment.
Here are five tips to ensure your new supervisor successfully navigates this unfamiliar terrain while avoiding mistakes that can stymie team productivity and cohesiveness.
1. Remind them it’s a marathon, not a sprint
An inexperienced supervisor may feel inclined to make immediate, drastic changes and implement a strong rule of law.
While improvements to processes and productivity are encouraged, stark change can be jarring for people.
Instead, encourage the new supervisor to ask the team for input on how to improve processes and the overall team dynamic. Remind them that it’s their job to support, challenge and motivate team members in any way they can. Help the supervisor communicate shared goals to the team.
Then, they can make changes incrementally. This allows everyone time to adapt to the new way and to work out any kinks that may arise.
It’s as simple as: No one wants to work for a tyrant. That’s why it’s important for first-time supervisors (and experienced ones as well) to solicit feedback, be inclusive and take things one step at a time.
2. Encourage them to be an even-handed leader
New supervisors must shift from being a team member to being a leader. This change can be tough, given prior relationships.
It’s likely they built friendships with certain team members. They may even have participated in office gossip at some point as an employee. Their new supervisory role, however, requires them to unify, motivate and coach the team.
This shift could cause tension if one employee feels another is receiving preferential treatment due to an existing relationship.
It’s important that the supervisor leave personal feelings at home, and wear the manager hat at work. Everyone should be treated equitably, meaning that all team members are getting the same opportunities and developmental feedback.
Remember, there may come a day when the supervisor will have to discipline a friend who’s now a direct report. That’s when separating their social life from their professional life becomes ever-more crucial. The rest of the team will be watching for preferential treatment.
3. Teach them to delegate
When an employee becomes a supervisor, they assume responsibility for developing and executing a plan to help the team complete its goals and assignments.
Coming from a background as an individual contributor, they may struggle to delegate tasks and best utilize each team member’s talents. This can lead to the supervisor taking on all the work.
Instead, supervisors should get to know each of their direct reports, and find out exactly what they do in their roles and how they do it best. Then delegate tasks accordingly.
They should also try to uncover what motivates each individual contributor to do their best work. Encourage them to schedule one-on-one meetings, lunches or even team activities. Any opportunity for new supervisors to get to know team members will help them learn how to play to the strengths of each contributor.
For example, the supervisor might learn that one team member is a really strong communicator. Rather than presenting the team’s work to a client themselves, they could ask this person to step up and facilitate the presentation instead.
The better the supervisor knows the team and their individual strengths, the more trust can be placed on team members to execute the task at hand.
4. Prevent the micromanagement trap
New supervisors can feel obligated to micromanage their team’s work.
This is an easy trap to fall into, and it might not be a conscious decision. The micromanager likely just wants to establish control over the process to help ensure the quality of the final product. The result is usually the opposite.
The team is underutilized and can feel overwhelmed or overworked. Instead, a strong supervisor not only delegates tasks but delegates authority, which instills respect and trust that the team is capable of completing the job.
If you notice that a supervisor unreasonably asks their direct reports for several updates per day, then provide constructive feedback. Be ready to give specific examples of their behavior and how they might approach the situation differently in the future.
For example, you could help your supervisor set better goals and expectations for their team, eliminating the need for frequent check-ins. Constant interruptions are a product of micromanagement, which can lead to lowered overall productivity and morale.
5. Keep coaching them
As a leader, make sure you’re coaching your supervisor along the way, too.
Occasionally join meetings led by your new supervisor to get a feel for the team dynamic and their leadership skills or deficiencies.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to their team and ask for feedback.
For example, you might say to a team member, “How is everything going? I know there have been some changes, and I just want to make sure everything is going well for you.”
You probably wouldn’t want to directly point out that you’re seeking feedback on the supervisor, as this might inadvertently undermine the supervisor’s authority, but this provides an opportunity to discuss any challenges the team member might be experiencing.
Once you’ve gained insight through observation and team conversations, have a coaching conversation with your new supervisor, and share any feedback you received from the team members.
Sandwich the good feedback with the areas that need improvement. We’re all humans, and a little praise and reinforcement of positive behaviors can go a long way.
You might also consider pairing up your new supervisor with a mentor who can help answer questions, give advice and be available as another resource.
Let your supervisor shine
With these tips in mind, you can help turn your star performer into an exceptional supervisor – one who treats their team fairly, listens attentively, delegates appropriately and never micromanages.
Want more advice on how to unleash the potential of your team? Download The Insperity guide to learning and development now for more HR advice.