There are practical and easy steps first-time supervisors can employ to get the job done. It is easier than what most new supervisors imagine about the job. First-time supervisors can inspire and enable people to achieve their goals.
In this guide, I will share with you 10 steps that will help you get started in no time.
Why First-time Supervisors Fail
I have seen talented individual performers who fail as new supervisors. They were promoted mainly because of their technical expertise. This of course is a good thing.
Supervisors who know what they are doing are looked up to. But the workplace is not just about work.
Once you become a supervisor, you have to deal with issues that involved emotions, motivations, and relationships.
New supervisors often worry about failing. They are going to deal with people whose performance reflects their ability to lead themselves and others.
If you are looking for ways to improve your performance and be of real help to others, this comprehensive guide will probably help you.
I will tell you how to build your supervisory skills. You can start with these 18 supervisory skills. Though each level of supervision requires a unique set of skills, you can start with these meta-skills.
However, if you are here because you are looking for learning opportunities, go to supervisory training instead. You will find practical courses that can help you step up.
10 Practical Tips for First-time Supervisors
Most of my experiences in supervising are based on being the person being supervised. I know how people talk behind the back of new supervisors.
In the Philippines, we don’t often tell our first-time supervisors how good or bad they are in leading us. We talk about it ourselves. If we want a topic to talk about for hours, then the supervisor is always an excellent candidate.
As a supervisor, there are things that you have to keep in mind. These ten tips that I will share with you aren’t steps. So, pick whichever interests you now.
1. Take control of your emotions
I won’t say you do not take your job personally. You will be spending more than a third of your life working. You cannot help but be personal about it.
But when working, you need to manage your emotions. When making decisions, you must be able to distinguish between facts and feelings. It is important to filter the facts from feelings so you can make informed decisions; decisions that you won’t regret.
As a new supervisor, you can influence the working climate, you can define team culture, and you can help improve interpersonal skills which can help you manage emotions.
You can be angry but you don’t make decisions based on your anger. You may confront people, but only to make things right. Ensure that your emotions help you become more productive, not less.
2. Understand Supervisory goals
Your organization relies on your ability to drive results in your area. Supervisors do not just watch over others; they are leaders in the strictest sense of the word.
Unlike machines, people aren’t predictable. It is not enough to give them a directive like “produce X by Y.” You can do that to machines. You give input and machines will give you predictable output in a certain amount of time.
So, you’ve got to understand your goals.
Know precisely why the organization needs someone like you in your job. What do they want to see immediately and in the long term?
Knowing your KRAs and KPIs is a good start. But you can always go beyond that.
Know the goals of your customers (both internal and external). Find out what it takes to make those goals happen.
What will make your boss happy? What will make the beautiful people of HR happy? What will make your direct reports happy? Think of all the people that you will be able to make happy because you are the supervisor.
Then aim for happiness plus 1.
First-time supervisors who give the extra effort to understand the job will become good in no time.
3. Work On, not just In
Good supervisors work in a company. Great supervisors work on a company. Don’t miss the difference because this can help you greatly.
Someone who works in an organization will be able to tick all the boxes. At the end of the day, the first-time supervisor will get all the tasks done and hit the targets.
That should be enough, right? You give the company what you are paid to do.
Who can argue against that? Not so many. But there are a few supervisors who work as leaders. They work on the organization.
Supervisors who are working on the organization are building it. They are not only getting all the tasks done (very important), but new supervisors may also explore opportunities to make the company great.
They deliver what is needed today while preparing the organization for the future.
As a first-time supervisor, explore how you can improve working conditions, develop magnetic relationships between employees, reduce expenses, improve customer experiences, create new products and services, and more.
You get the picture.
You can be this kind of first-time supervisor.
Going the extra mile is not only a piece of excellent biblical advice. It is a way of life. You can choose it too.
4. Plan to Be Successful
First-time supervisors must know how to plan well. Planning to be successful does not ensure that you’ll be successful. In life, there are many variables. We do not control all of these variables.
You won’t even know what will happen to you tomorrow.
But not planning to be successful won’t even make you successful too. Heck, if we don’t plan for success, we won’t even recognize success even if we are already swimming in it. That’s because we have no name for it.
That’s the real use of planning to be successful.
You call success by a name. You can call it 99% customer satisfaction. You can call it double the revenue for half the time. Whatever, you call it, that will be your success.
Now, if you can tell us how that success tastes, feels, and smells, then you are becoming a bit more descriptive.
What if you can divide your success into sets, and put in each set the bits and pieces? Then, maybe, you can start to think about how your days and hours will change before you get to success and what will happen, after you reached it.
You call this a project plan, a business plan, a game plan, Operation X, or whatever.
Having a plan is always better than not having one. New supervisors can accelerate growth through planning.
5. Dress the Part
In most companies, you got to wear a uniform. And supervisors get the same uniform as everyone else.
Most likely, you get a nameplate that will people know you. But not every template includes a designation. The way you dress the part expresses more though.
6. Walk the talk.
Whatever you preach, you ought to practice. You walk the talk when you set an example for everyone. I won’t lecture you on what’s ideal. That’s not my place. But I can tell you how to make this looks easier.
You can start with your corporate values. Your corporate values are clues to the culture and climate you desire for your organization. Your values may also tell you about the level of skills and commitment you expect from everyone.
People can forgive you for lacking supervisory skills. But new supervisors are expected to behave according to corporate values.
Walk the talk means you must translate values into action.
For example, you can lecture your team about the importance of excellence. But what is the meaning of excellence to your group — and how it can help your team succeed?
What are vital behaviors that tell people you are practicing excellence?
Vital behaviors are actions that are impacting your business. If you can define that – and you can demonstrate the practice of that every day, then you are walking the talk.
Culture training cannot replace your example. Because whether you like it or not, whatever you do impacts the performance of your team and molds the culture of your organization.
7. Develop Relationships with Your Bosses
People, in general, hate suck-ups. Sipsip and mapapel are names used to describe them. A social climber sounds better.
The best way to be a sipsip is to help your bosses succeed. When I was teaching, my supervisors often get rewards because of the many things I accomplished. Often, I do not even get credit.
But even this, sometimes, backfires. Some supervisors are threatened by high-performing employees.
Don’t be afraid.
I encourage you to develop a good relationship with your bosses because that’s the easiest way for you to understand how to help your customers.
Find out how to best help your bosses. Observe how they work, how they communicate, their drives and goals, and even their quirks.
The purpose is to empathize so you can work well with them.
8. Develop Relationships with Peers
New supervisors must help each other succeed. Build strong relationships with them so you can solve common problems, support each other on issues that affect some or all, and collaborate on new endeavors.
I remember a time when I facilitated a team-building program. Just like many team-building programs, the first part of a session is an icebreaker game.
Two employees shared that though they had been communicating via email for six months, that was the first time they met. And they were surprised to learn that they were two cubicles away from each other.
And it was not only them.
Most employees of that company never had the chance to meet each other as persons.
This is not likely to happen among supervisors, but not impossible.
Encourage your direct reports to build relationships. To find common aspirations. To learn more about each other than their names and designations. Inspire them to meet people because that’s how professionals grow. You can do that by setting yourself as the best example.
9. Stay Current
I once conducted a supervisory skills workshop for a government agency. It was evident that the participants were not at ease. They seemed like school kids afraid to be called during a graded recitation.
“Sir, this is the first time that I am attending a seminar on supervisory skills. Though I have been working in our agency for 17 years and I have been a supervisor for more than ten years, I still don’t know how to become a good supervisor.” She’s teary-eyed. I was not sure what to feel.
” I am not sure why I need to attend this seminar. I am not saying that this is not important. Actually, I wish they gave me this training when I was younger. But I am already 63 years old and I am just waiting for my retirement.”
Okay. These supervisors are not like you.
Perhaps, you are a millennial. You have shown great promise. Your company is willing to send you to as many training programs as you want. Good for you because many supervisors out there, like those two public servants above, were given the position but not the support.
None of us need to wait for 17 or 40 years to get trained in leadership. You can find many sources only that will help you get trained and stay current.
New supervisors can access online courses offered by Harvard and other great universities in the world. Many of these online courses you can access for free. You can purchase books from Amazon or download them for free on
There are websites dedicated to teaching supervisors how to become effective supervisors.
Stay current about your industry. Read magazines. Again,
Scribd.com is a great source. Listen to podcasts, watch Youtube videos, and join webinars.
Find out the competencies companies will require from supervisors (and managers) for the next five or ten years. I love articles from World Economic Forum and I recommend you start reading now.
It will also help if you develop skills that are always relevant like delegation and problem-solving skills.
You won’t be left behind if you decide to stay current.
10. Don’t Ignore Problems
You can hate them, but you cannot ignore problems. Even small problems become big if you don’t pay attention.
When ignored, problems turn into conflict. The conflict that you fail to manage will turn into a crisis. Never be complacent.
I am not saying that worry about everything. You don’t have to. You only need to be aware and mindful.
One tool that I recommend new supervisors use is the Stinky Fish canvas. There are problems in organizations that are often unsaid and unheard of but are becoming stinky. Often, supervisors ignore them.
The Stinky Fish canvas helps you address problems your people are facing and help them solve the problems themselves. You ought to try it.
We have discussed the importance of self-leadership to supervisors. New supervisors can accelerate learning by becoming mindful of their leadership roles. The first two steps to self-leadership are understanding one’s assets and strengths – and knowing what’s required of the position.
As a new supervisor, the following can help you become more effective.
- Take control of your emotions
- Understand Your Goals.
- Work On, not just In
- Plan to Be Successful
- Dress the Part
- Walk the talk.
- Develop Relationship with Your Bosses
- Develop Relationship with Peers
- Stay Current
- Don’t Ignore Problems
You can start with these 10 tips. Work on the ones the resonate with you first.
You can become an effective supervisor. You can develop the skills you need to lead people and make things happen. I also recommend that you explore the following articles.