How to Supervise Supervisors
I have been supervising other supervisors for over seven years and I have been a supervisor myself for over ten years.
Managing Your Managers
As a leader in your organization you expect that you should trust the managers and supervisors below you to do their job. However, that isn't always the case. In fact, supervising the supervisors in your organization can be harder than supervising the entry level employee.
This article covers all you need to know so you can effectively manage your supervisors and managers.
Leading Your Supervisors
The Five Basic Types of Supervisors
First, I will go into the five basic types of supervisors you will come across. You will want to watch to see what type your manager or supervisor falls under so you know what you need to address. Keep in mind some of these types may actually fit your organization.
- The Micromanager - Basically this one will snoop into the tasks that each and every employee are doing, big or small, and interfere in some way. This is something I used to be. This can be deadly to the office. Staff will constantly be paranoid and feel that they won't have any freedom to do their jobs. Mistakes will rise and morale will fall.
- The Non-Working Manager - This supervisor feels it is their job to oversee the operations of the office, but choose to not do any of the work. While they won't micromanage, they won't chip in either. A supervisor needs to get their hands dirty to understand the job.
- The Working Manager - It's great to have a manager who is willing to do the job of their subordinates. However taking all of the tasks themselves can stunt the growth of your employees. This person has to be willing to give up some control from time to time.
- The Troublemaker - With this type the work isn't the issue, it's the drama that they cause. It's either gossip, not following directives, etc. This one can be the most dangerous of them all.
- The Leader - This is probably your near-perfect manager that you won't have to worry about. It doesn't mean they can to their job without some guidance, but you will have a rock solid organization with leaders like this. This is the rarest of the five types.
Ripple Effect of Supervisors
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Effects of Properly Supervising your Supervisors
If you guide and manage your supervisors properly, then they will treat their own staff just as fairly as you treat them.
However, if you fail to manage those below you the right way, they will pass that same attitude on to their subordinates, creating a ripple effect.
Tips on Managing Your Supervisors
Below are some tips on how to supervisor your supervisors:
- Ensure you show them the ropes of the job. The only way to be an effective supervisor is if they know the job duties of those under them. Don't expect them to teach others or to enforce rules if they can't perform the same job duties on their own.
- Don't always take them at their word. They are still employees and employees have been known to lie or skirt the truth. Investigate any issues involving them fully. There are more legality issues involved when it comes to supervisor/employee relationships. You don't want your organization involved in an lawsuit.
- Give them a higher level of trust. However, if you trust them to oversee the work of other employees and more complex job tasks, you will have to trust them to get the job done. If they feel you don't trust them, then they may second guess any major decision that has to be made. It's up to you to find the right balance.
- State your goals. Give them clear and concise goals that they need to accomplish, then let them take the reigns in how to get that done. Don't give vague instructions though. If they don't receive some guidelines in how to accomplish their tasks, they could be done incorrectly or not at all.
- Share your experiences. The best way to learn is to tell them stories of when you were first in their shoes. Talk about the mistakes you made, the triumphs, the pitfalls. New supervisors will look to you on how to react to a situation. Be prepared to offer them that guidance.
- Cut the cord. Eventually you will have to let them find their own style in supervising. It may not be the same as your own, which is fine. You want it to match their personality the most so that they will be the best supervisor that they can be.
- Communicate. Your supervisors are the life-line between you and your line staff. Pass on information to them so that they can pass it on. If you need to talk to them about a private matter, ensure that you state it is confidential. If you don't, they could assume it is appropriate to tell their staff.
- Promote from within. If you can, promote your experienced staff members. There is a risk of making it hard for them as they will have to supervise their former co-workers, but their experience on the job, knowing everyone's personalities, etc. will be a great benefit to you. Plus this will cut your training time down significantly.
- Ignore your phone. That's right, if they are calling you to help solve an issue, sometimes you should ignore that phone call. That will allow them to figure out how to solve the problem on their own. Afterwards you can review what they did and correct them if needed, or congratulate them if they did right. You can't always be expected to be available, so might as well show them that when it's in a more controlled situation.
- Let them vent. From your own experience you should know how hard it is to supervise. Have an open door policy for them to come in and vent their frustrations. If they feel they can't express it, then they will start to take it out on their staff.
- Ask their subordinates about the supervisor's progress. The best way to receive open and honest feedback about your supervisors is to ask those below them on how they are doing. Do not avoid the employes who may be constantly in trouble. Even though they may exaggerate some points, they could bring up a legitimate problem that the others have overlooked.
- Give them complex tasks. You should immediately start grooming your supervisors to take over your job. You never know if you will be receiving a promotion and one of them will have to take over. You also want to prove that your supervisors can handle some of your job duties if you are ever out of the office.
- Include them in decisions. Have an important decision that could affect the entire office? Bring your supervisors in to hear their thoughts on it. They may see something that you may have missed when making your decision.
- Sh*t rolls downhill. And this isn't just trouble - it's everything. If you walk in the office in a bad mood, it will spread to them, and then spread to their staff. The same goes with walking in with a positive attitude - your supervisors will see the same and mimic that action.
- Reward them. Just like you would with your line staff, reward your supervisors as well. Obviously only do this if they deserve it. But your supervisors deserve recognition just as much as any of your other employees.
Teach Your Supervisors
Employee Performance Reviews for Supervisors
Evaluations for those who are supervising should obviously focus more on their performance as a supervisor than just someone doing the job. If at all possible, solicit the input of those working under them. Obtain both good and bad points. This will help you see if you are moving in the right direction and if they need to improve in any areas. While some workplaces may not allow that kind of input, all supervisors should welcome any comments that come from their staff members.
The process of the evaluation should be the same as any other employee. You don't want to catch yourself in a bit of a mess by handling things casually or inappropriately. They are still a working staff member, so you have to keep that in mind. Focus on their growth and especially their weaknesses as a supervisor. A supervisor always has a weakness that needs to be improved and focused on. While they may think they are the perfect supervisor - they aren't. I'm not. Supervisors have areas to improve on just like their own staff members.
Want to know more about employee reviews? If so, then check out this article.
The five steps in teaching an employee new skills are preparation, explanation, showing, observation, and supervision.— Bruce Barton
My Experiences in Supervising Supervisors
Below are some of my experiences in supervising other supervisors.
- At one point I was receiving complaints that one of my supervisors basically didn't know the job. Instead, she just oversaw what was going on, much like a non-working manager. This was a concern since this position was primarily a working manager position. At first I dismissed the complaints since they were coming from just one employee, but eventually multiple staff members made complaints. Once I looked into it, I found this supervisor did not know the basic job tasks. This required me to train this supervisor and even resort to disciplinary action to rectify the issue.
- One supervisor I had I considered to be the leader in not just her unit, but in other units as well. She knew the job inside and out, her staff respected her, etc. However, I asked her to type our procedures on everything her unit does. Despite constant reminders she would not meet deadlines for these procedures. By the time her evaluation came I had to downgrade her for failing to complete those procedures. She was upset and didn't even speak to me unless she had to. But in time she got over it and gave me those procedures I wanted.
- This last situation was the hardest one I have had to deal with when it comes to supervising supervisors. This employee, while a great working manager, was making the wrong decisions when it came to her supervisory duties. We consistently talked about it in an effort to get her to improve. Separately, we were having issues with another area of the unit and made plans to address those issues, which was meant to stay confidential. This supervisor broke that confidentiality. Through talks and meetings this supervisor admitted to breaking confidentiality to get back at me for some unknown reason. This supervisor went from a working manager to a troublemaker.
Managers are Part of the Team
There is no right or wrong way to supervise your supervisors. It all depends on the workplace, workload, and the job that needs to be accomplished. Just like with your general staff members, your supervisors have their own unique personalities. Learn that personality and adjust accordingly. That supervisor is a member of your team, so ensure you make them feel part of the team.
If you have thoughts to share about this topic, please leave them in the comments below.
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