Have you made supervision mistakes?

The responsibility of supervising someone in the workplace is quite a large one. You are put in a situation where you will receive a portion of the blame and credit for how that person (or team) performs.

For this reason it pays to make sure that you are avoiding key mistakes that supervisors and managers usually make when trying to motivate and shape the performance of those that report to them.

Mistake 1: Being vague

As a manager or supervisor your communication skills have to rise to a new level. Broad stroke explanations can introduce uncertainty, or result in a lot of wasted time if people are working without enough direction, trying to guess what you want or what the desired format or results should be. While you want to give your staff the freedom to think for themselves and have some autonomy, there is a balance that needs to be struck so that they are not left completely aimless.

SKILL TIP #1: Agree to specific goals so that everyone knows exactly what is required and by when.

Mistake 2: Using fear tactics

Because there is a power imbalance between supervisors and team members it is fairly common to see those in the higher position using fear tactics. Using fear as a motivator may be effective to get immediate results, but usually only in the short term. If people go through long periods with this negative cloud hovering above they will tend towards self-protective behaviour. If your team trusts that you won’t explode into a rage when something goes wrong they are more likely to come to you for help before disaster strikes. You need to be more effective in the long term, so don’t threaten unnecessarily.

SKILL TIP #2: Listen to your team and be as supportive as possible.

Mistake 3: Giving poor feedback

Not all feedback is intentional. Your instant reactions are a form of feedback to those that work with you, but if you are going to give structured feedback it needs to be effective. Most people feel as though they are performing as well as they can, so criticisms can really cause offence. Constructive feedback outlines to people how they can improve. Positive feedback is surprisingly rare. When people do something right it is motivating to them to be told they are on the right track. It is a very easy way of reinforcing what the expectations are.

SKILL TIP #3: Give positive encouragement more often and, when giving critical feedback, be very specific and frame it constructively.

Mistake 4: Having inappropriate discussions

As much as you might want to create a relaxed and open environment in the office there are still many types of conversations that are totally inappropriate in the workplace. A supervisor, often by acting as an example, has more influence on what is acceptable as a discussion topic. I have heard reports of supervisors discussing personal details of team members out in the open, making inappropriate romantic advances, or discussing attraction to staff or clients, and in some cases giving detailed sexual accounts. These are all surprisingly common examples of what shouldn’t happen, but so frequently does.

SKILL #4: Focus on building skills rather than gossiping, initiating or joining inappropriate discussions.

Supervision requires a separate set of skills and new style of interaction that may take some getting used to. Being aware of how you are impacting people in the team is essential for effectively managing your team and building trust and productivity in the group.

Eve Ash has produced some hilarious new comedy videos for workplace entertainment and learning. See the mistakes made in Supervising Effectively, Explaining Skilfully, Overcoming Disempowerment, Building Relationships, Surviving Team Conflicts. Eve has created a wide range of video and book resources (www.7d-tv.com).

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