11 Top Tips for Managers and Supervisors

Boy, I wish someone had offered me an “Emerging Leader” training program before I stepped into a supervisory role oh-so-many moons ago! Here’s what I wish I could have learned:

11 Tips for Managers and Supervisors

1. Read First, Break All the Rules by Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham. Focus on the 12 Employee Needs and the Strengths Interview (a getting to know you meeting). I believe this book should be required reading for anyone in a leadership role or better yet, long before they actually start to manage a team.

2. Have one of your employees teach you their job. Not only will you learn what they do at a deeper level, but you may find some ways to improve the process. When I led a new upsell effort in a call center, we asked each supervisor to sit with one of their folks and work the phone for a few hours. The supervisor took the order and made the upsell offer while the employee coached as necessary. Each of them learned something from the other.

3. Establish and maintain standards of respect and courtesy. If you let employees engage in actions that don’t honor one another, it won’t be long before destructive behaviors undermine productivity, teamwork and job satisfaction. People will be more stressed and distracted. You might find yourself mediating more battles. Get the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.

4. On a related note, don’t let people abuse one another and then cop out with claims of “I was just kidding!” That kind of humor can mask anger and a desire to inflict pain. Hold them accountable to their words and actions.

5. Insist on cleanliness, especially inside the restrooms and office refrigerator. (You think I’m kidding?) Some say that allowing disorder to reign sends a subtle message it’s acceptable in other areas, such as work product or customer service. Studies have found that once you clean things up, better behavior follows.

6. Banish foul language. Just like the paragraph above, swearing dirties up the environment. Many use it for shock value or to try and “bond” or fit in with others. It shows a lack of respect for co-workers. It indicates you have limited language skills. It also implies you lack self-control. Is that really the message you want to send?

7. Ask for people’s opinions. It is one of the highest compliments to ask for someone’s opinion – as long as you have a sincere interest and you’re not trying to entrap them. This is important: just because you ask for feedback doesn’t mean you have to agree. Some managers don’t want to open “Pandora’s Box” by asking employees what they think, want or need. Consider a fishbowl. Within the glass confines, you have a lot of “water” to move around in, but there is also a barrier in place. You can still enforce boundaries while trying to get better information. 

8. Ask Provocative Questions. Managers believe they get less than 13% of the information they need to do their jobs. Why? Because employees filter out the negative news or anything they think you don’t want to hear. (You didn’t tell your Mom and Dad everything you did, now did you?) So in your weekly team meeting, ask questions to get them to open up. You’ll be amazed what you learn!

Example: What did we do this week that was…

  • customer focused?
  • innovative?
  • redundant?
  • worthy of bragging about?
  • disappointing?
  • just plain wrong?
  • surprising?
  • something you haven’t yet told anyone about?

9. Have an off-site. If you can schedule it once or twice a year, it’ll be a huge morale booster. Of course, make sure you maintain coverage of essential functions, but don’t let that stop you from making the effort to line up backup. Give people an agenda and some “pre-work” ahead of time so they come prepared to discuss key topics. Hire an outside facilitator so you don’t have to do all the work that day.

10. Cook a meal. There’s nothing more fun for folks than watching their frontline leaders or management team flip a few eggs or burgers for the team. You’ll look human. It shows you appreciate them. Even if you buy some subs and distribute the food, it’ll send the same message. Add to the fun and hold a contest so they can vote on who has the most creative apron or chef’s hat.

11. Recognize the power of authority. In one of my favorite books, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, he cites the Milgram Experiment in his chapter on Authority. Because you are the boss, you have more perceived power than you might realize. You can impact their paycheck, performance reviews, job assignments, office space, work shifts, etc. So avoid the temptation to be heavy-handed. Sometimes less is more.

Being a manager or supervisor is a wonderful learning opportunity. (No sarcasm intended.) You gain insights into human nature, motivation, ethics and critical thinking. You get to test your personal and professional strengths. You find out where your boundaries are. And you figure out how to help others work around the obstacles.

I don’t care what you call it – leadership, management or supervision – if you’re in charge of one person or a whole team, you’ll grow. You’ll be the person they talk about over the dinner table. You could have more of an impact on someone’s life than you ever expected.

Got a tip you’d like to share? Send me an email and maybe I’ll add it a forthcoming workbook.

Additional Reading:

Why Your Biggest Embarrassment Makes You More of a Leader

One Amazing Leadership Example

Secrets From an HR Manager