Stepping into a supervisor position can be a big step in anyone’s career. Whether it is an entrepreneur hiring their first set of employees or a member of a team getting promoted, becoming a supervisor is an accomplishment. While the allure of leadership is undeniably strong, it is not without its challenges.
Many new supervisors, in their zeal to excel, unintentionally make some common leadership mistakes. These mistakes, although natural in the learning curve, can influence the growth trajectories of both the supervisor and their team members. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common mistakes new supervisors make and how to avoid them.
Delegation is a skill every leader needs to learn. However, many new supervisors fall into the trap of wanting to handle everything themselves. According to a statistic from the late London Business School professor John Hunt, about 30% of managers think they can delegate effectively. Maybe it is because new supervisors feel they need to control everything themselves. Or perhaps they want to show that they can handle every responsibility in their new position. Whatever the reason, not delegating is a surefire way to inhibit your success as a supervisor.
By not delegating, new supervisors end up overburdening themselves. Also, they rob their team of opportunities to grow and learn. When leaders don’t delegate to their team they are essentially saying “I don’t trust you with these responsibilities”. This lack of trust does not help their team grow and also creates division between management and staff.
Learning how to delegate is one of the best things supervisors can do to improve themselves. It will not only make their job easier but will help improve the overall productivity of their team.
Trying to Make Everyone Happy
It’s a noble aspiration to want everyone to be happy and content. However, new supervisors sometimes misinterpret their role. They sometimes think they must please everyone. This is most common for first-time supervisors. In trying to make everyone happy, supervisors can inadvertently compromise on standards. For example, to make some individuals happy, they avoid making tough decisions. which can lead to many things not being done and their team losing confidence in their ability to make good decisions.
The reality is, leadership often involves making difficult choices that won’t please everyone. It’s essential to prioritize the organization’s goals and the team’s collective needs over individual preferences. Instead of striving for universal approval, new supervisors should aim for fairness, consistency, and clarity in their decisions and actions.
Conflict is an inevitable part of human interactions. In a professional setting, it is nearly impossible to avoid all conflicts. Sometimes they happen due to disagreements over goals or methods. Other times you will see conflicts begin due to different working styles. Then there are also the ones involving interpersonal issues. They happen in every line of business. However, it is up to leaders to know how to correctly respond to them.
New supervisors might view conflict as a sign of failure or dysfunction. This is not always to case. Sometimes the conflict has nothing to do with the supervisor or the overall state of the team. However, this doesn’t stop some new supervisors from feeling like they are not capable of handling the task of resolving the conflict. As a result, they may avoid addressing issues head-on, hoping they will resolve on their own.
Unfortunately, avoiding conflict can make problems worse. When supervisors don’t address problems with a few team members, it usually spreads throughout the entire team. Before you know it, a small conflict can grow to impact employee engagement and team morale.
Managing different personalities is one of the major challenges of being a supervisor. Instead of shying away from disagreements, supervisors should embrace them as opportunities for growth and clarification. By facilitating open communication, seeking understanding, and addressing issues promptly, supervisors can turn potential conflicts into constructive discussions.
Not Having Clear Goals for Themselves
New supervisors might neglect to set clear goals because they assume everyone is on the same page. They may also do it because they fear being seen as too authoritative. However, the absence of clear goals can lead to confusion. It can also lead to wasted efforts since many in the department may just be trying to keep busy instead of being productive. Doing this creates priorities that are misaligned.
Supervisors should have goals for themselves. The goals a supervisor sets have ripple effects throughout an organization. The most effective supervisors lead by example. From there, they need to make sure the goals for their team are clear. Supervisors must articulate what needs to be achieved, by when, and why. Regularly revisiting and adjusting these goals, based on feedback and changing circumstances, ensures the team remains focused and aligned.
Providing Feedback Too Late
One major responsibility of a supervisor is providing adequate feedback. It is also one of the most difficult things to do consistently. However, giving feedback at the right time is important. One survey found that 75% of employees who do receive feedback feel that it is incredibly important to their work. Also, 65% of employees said that they wanted more feedback.
Despite this being the lifeblood of continuous improvement, some new supervisors delay giving feedback. It could be because they’re unsure of how to deliver it. Or, sometimes it is because they fear negative reactions. Unfortunately, delaying feedback too long can lead to entrenched bad habits or misunderstandings.
Supervisors need to provide timely, specific, and constructive feedback. This helps team members understand where they stand, what’s expected of them, and how they can improve.
Here are some tips to help supervisors give feedback promptly:
- Set Regular Feedback Sessions: Set regular check-ins with your team members. This could be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, depending on the nature of the work.
- Establish an Open Door Policy: Make yourself available to team members so they feel comfortable approaching you with questions or concerns. When they do, be prompt in addressing those concerns and providing any necessary feedback.
- React to “Teachable Moments”: When a situation arises that can serve as a learning experience, seize the opportunity to provide feedback. It’s often in these immediate post-event discussions that feedback is most relevant and impactful. The quicker you address it, the fresher the situation is in the employee’s mind.
- Stay Organized with Notes: Take quick notes on situations or performances that warrant feedback. This way, even if you can’t provide feedback immediately, you have a written record to refer to during your next check-in or meeting.
This is the common mistake of new and ambitious supervisors. The desire to excel in a new leadership role often drives new supervisors to take on more than they can handle. This can lead to them overworking themselves. Overworking doesn’t just refer to long hours. It also means the emotional and mental strain that comes with handling too many tasks or responsibilities.
While a strong work ethic is commendable, consistently overworking can lead to burnout. It also leads to decreased productivity and mistakes. One University of Stanford study found that workers clocking during 60-hour weeks would be less than two-thirds less productive than that of what it would be if 40-hour weeks were worked.
Moreover, it sets an unhealthy precedent for the team. Supervisors must remember that their role is not just to do the work but to ensure that work gets done efficiently across the team. This means taking breaks, setting boundaries, and modeling a balanced approach to work.
Not Setting Individual Goals for Your Team Members
Earlier, we outlined the importance of supervisors setting goals for themselves and their team. However, the goal-setting process should not stop there. Supervisors must also set individual goals for their team members. These goals provide direction, purpose, and motivation for each individual. They should also align with their personal growth goals.
Supervisors should find out what motivates team members. Are they motivated by a chance to get promoted? Do they want to work hard for a bonus? What career path are they seeking? Knowing the answers to these questions can help new supervisors lead better. It can also help them set goals for the individuals on their team which will motivate them to do their best work.
Not Offering Recognition
People crave recognition and appreciation for their efforts. While feedback is about guidance and improvement, recognition is about acknowledging and celebrating achievements. Good supervisors do their best to offer rewards and recognition. This can be in the form of monetary bonuses and regular verbal or written praise that the employee is doing a good job.
New supervisors might forget the importance of recognizing individual and team achievements. This is sometimes because they are often focused on tasks and goals. While these things are important, neglecting recognition can be a huge leadership mistake. Failing to offer recognition can lead to decreased morale and motivation.
When employees are not recognized for their hard work, they can also become less engaged. It’s vital for supervisors to celebrate wins, no matter how small, and recognize the efforts behind them. This not only boosts team spirit but also reinforces positive behaviors and outcomes.
Over-Managing or Micromanaging
While it’s essential for supervisors to be involved and informed, there’s a fine line between managing and micromanaging. New supervisors are often eager to make sure everything goes perfectly. However, in this attempt, they might fall into the trap of overseeing every small detail. This can lead to frustration and demotivation among team members.
Micromanaging can stifle creativity, hinder individual growth, and create a culture of dependency. In fact, over-managing is a sign of a bad supervisor who does not trust their team. Supervisors should trust their team’s expertise, provide them with the autonomy to make decisions and intervene only when necessary.
Here are some ways to avoid being a micromanager.
- Set Boundaries for Yourself: Establish specific times or situations where you’ll check in on progress rather than doing it impulsively. For instance, instead of checking daily, maybe opt for a weekly progress meeting.
- Focus on Outcomes, Not Processes: Instead of focusing on how tasks are done, focus on the end results. There are often multiple ways to achieve the same goal. Allowing team members to find their methods can lead to innovation and increased efficiency.
- Resist the Urge to Jump In: When you see something not going exactly the way you envisioned, take a step back and assess if it’s a critical issue or just a different approach. Not everything needs your intervention.
- Reflect and Self-assess: Periodically, take time to reflect on your management style. Ask yourself if you’re stepping in too often and why. Understanding your motivations can help you adjust your behavior.
Not Asking for Help
The role of a supervisor can be overwhelming. This is especially true for those new to the position. Some might feel that asking for help or guidance is a sign of weakness or incompetence. However, no one has all the answers. Recognizing when to seek advice is a sign of strength and wisdom. Admitting you don’t know it all is a sign of humility that your team will recognize.
As a new supervisor, learn to ask for help when you need it. Whether from peers, superiors, or mentors, seeking assistance in doing work in your new position will help you grow faster into it. New supervisors need to remember that they’re not on an island. Even though sometimes it may feel that way. Asking for help can be the lifeline supervisors need to do their best work.
By being cognizant of these common pitfalls and armed with strategies to overcome them, new supervisors can fortify their leadership foundation. Remember, the ultimate goal isn’t perfection, but growth—both personal and for the team.