Eight Essential Skills Every First Time Supervisor Needs – Part 2

Yesterday you were one of the group. Today you’re its leader. Here’s what you’ll need to do differently.

Being a first-time manager or supervisor can be a very scary time, indeed.  Many of the challenges you’ll face will be very different from your challenges of being an outstanding performer in your prior role.  However, there are lessons you can learn and master now, before you find yourself on the precipice of your first supervisory role. 

In Part 1 of Eight Lessons to Master Before Becoming a First-Time Manager we discussed the first four lessons to master.  Visit Part 1 to get the details of each of these crucial lessons:


  1. Ask Questions Instead of Making Statements. Before you have the necessary facts to share an opinion, you first need to learn what your people do and not know.  Remember, you cannot learn anything if you are the one doing the talking.
  2. Get to Really Know Your New Staff. The fastest route to get to know your people deeply includes spending quality time with them and using a high-quality behavioral assessment.  For this we recommend the TriMetrix EQ, which measures behaviors (DISC), driving forces, and emotional intelligence. 
  3. Extend Trust. The best way to receive the trust of others is for you to first extend it to others.  Applying the first two lessons here will also increase trust.
  4. Clearly Define Outcomes, Then Ask for a Plan. Use the five questions to correctly define outcomes followed by a request for them to share and discuss their plan to get there. This not only builds a relationship of trust, but increases engagement, ownership, and productivity.


While the first four lessons helped you build a strong foundation for success as a new manager or supervisor, the final four lessons will help you excel in your new role:


Five: It’s No Longer About You, Now It’s All About Them

This is so true on many different levels.  When you were a solo performer, you served two masters: yourself and your employer.  You got the accolades for personal achievements while your contributions helped move the department to success. 

As a new supervisor or manager, you no longer serve yourself.  You are now a fiduciary, one who must place the interests of your employer above your own.  You now serve both your employer and the team of people who report to you.  This means you must have your team’s and your employer’s best interests at heart. 

Nothing demonstrates this more than making it all about them.  For example, give them credit for things when they go well; you take responsibility when things don’t go as well as you’d have liked.  When you assign work to your staff, do so while explaining how they will benefit from a job well done, and the development they’ll receive as they learn and master new skills.  Help them find their own best fit in the organization as you place them in a position to make their greatest contribution to the employer.  You make their one-on-one time all about them.  Yet you hold people accountable for their results and behaviors.


Six: Get Real, Stay Realistic

If you came up through the ranks, chances are high that you were an exceptional performer.  Your staff already knows this and doesn’t need you to remind them of it.  As a staff member, it never feels good to be reminded that your new boss could do your job better than you do it. 

Which brings us to being realistic in your expectations.  If you were an exceptional performer, it is probably not realistic to set that performance level as the department’s new standard.  Instead, what does good performance look like in terms of defined outcomes, quantity and quality metrics?  Good performance should be a stretch, but realistic.  Just as you communicated outcomes to the team, similarly communicate your expectations of the standards (using steps 1 to 3 in Part 1).  Then encourage them early and often in their progress.


Seven: Avoid Hiring in Your Own Image

You may think that because you were promoted, your own set of skills, talents, and knowledge should be replicated in every new hire.  Team strength (achieving more as a team than the sum of individual contributions) comes through utilizing a diversity of skills, talents, and knowledge. 

A team’s shared blindness is usually caused by a lack of diversity of the team’s skills, talents, and knowledge. In order to mitigate team blindness, seek to add team members with different skills, talents, and knowledge than other team members have, which are also the right ones for their specific role on the team. 


Eight: Never Lose Your Sense of Humor

Laughter, a sense of playfulness, and appropriate good humor all reduce tension.  Studies show that tension and stress have negative effects on motivation, energy levels, work safety, absenteeism, and employee tenure.  People are put at ease around a supervisor who laughs easily and encourages playfulness and banter.  When someone is characterized by good humor, there is more willingness by team members to focus and get serious when the situation calls for it.  Nobody wants to walk on eggshells because they work for a grouch or someone with a bad temper.

Finally, don’t forget to remind your face (often) that its expression is its humor monitor!


Bottom Line

Robert Half once observed, “Talent is rare.  Rarer still is the talent to recognized talent.”  I’m amending this wisdom by adding, “The rarest talent of all is the talent to develop talent.  If you can do this well you will always be in demand.”  All eight essential lessons are important ways that new managers and supervisors can develop talent.  By becoming a talent developer, you will have an incredibly successful career and never want for opportunity or position. 

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

  • Improving your (or your team’s) management and leadership skills: Leading Through People™. This acclaimed program equips participants in thousands of current and emerging best practices of leadership, hiring, and talent development.
  • Raising your (or your team’s) selling and sales management effectiveness: B2B Sales Essentials™ (among the 30-plus courses we offer are ones on selling with emotional intelligence and storyselling!)
  • Conducting a more effective job search: Get a Better Job Faster™

For the past 25 years I’ve worked with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search.  To find out more, please visit us at www.boyermanagement.com, email us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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