Basics for New Managers and Supervisors to Manage Themselves

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business and Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision for Nonprofit Staff.

Sections of This Topic Include

Role of New Manager or Supervisor is Often Very Stressful
Guidelines to Manage Yourself
Additional Resources for Supervisors
Additional Resources About Well-Being

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(This page is referenced from Basic Overview of Supervision.)

Role of New Manager or Supervisor is Often Very Stressful

The experience of a first-time supervisor or manager is often one of the most trying in their career. They rarely have adequate training for the new management role -- they were promoted because of their technical expertise, not because of their managerial expertise. They suddenly have a wide range of policies and other regulations to apply to their subordinates. Work is never "done". They must represent upper management to their subordinates, and their subordinates to upper management. They're stuck in the middle. They can feel very alone.

Guidelines to Manage Yourself

Everyone in management has gone through the transition from individual contributor to manager. Each person finds their own way to "survive". The following guidelines will help you keep your perspective and your health.

Monitor your work hours

The first visible, undeniable sign that things are out of hand is that you're working too many hours. Note how many hours you are working per week. Set a limit and stick to that limit. Ask your peers or boss for help.

Recognize your own signs of stress

Different people show their stress in different ways. Some people have "blow ups". Some people get very forgetful. Some people lose concentration. For many people, they excel at their jobs, but their home life falls apart. Know your signs of stress. Tell someone else what they are. Ask them to check in with you every two weeks to see how you are doing. Every two weeks, write down how you are doing -- if only for a minute. Stick in it a file marked "%*#)%&!!#$".

Get a mentor or a coach

Ideally, your supervisors is a very good mentor and coach. Many people have "been there, done that" and can serve as great mentors to you.

Learn to delegate

Delegating is giving others the responsibility and authority to carry out tasks. You maintain the accountability to get them done, but you let others decide how they will carry out the tasks themselves. Delegation is a skill to learn. Start learning it.

Communicate as much as you can

Have at least one person in your life with whom you are completely honest. Hold regular meetings with staff -- all of them in one meeting at least once a month, and meet at least once every two weeks with each of your direct reports. A common problem among new managers and supervisors (or among experienced, but ineffective ones) is not meeting unless there's something to say. There is always something to communicate, even if to say that things are going well and then share the health of your pets. New managers and supervisors often assume that their employees know as much as they do. One of the first signs of an organization in trouble is that communications break down. Err on the side of too much communication, rather than not enough.

Recognize what's important from what's urgent

Fix the system, not the problem. One of the major points that experienced manages make is that they've learned to respond to what's important, rather than what's urgent. Phone calls, sick employees, lost paperwork, disagreements between employees all seem to suddenly crop up and demand immediate attention. It can seem like your day is responding to one crises after another. As you gain experience, you quit responding to the crisis and instead respond to the problem that causes the crises. You get an answering machine or someone else to answer the phone. You plan for employees being gone for the day -- and you accept that people get sick. You develop a filing system to keep track of your paperwork. You learn basic skills in conflict management. Most important, you recognize that management is a process -- you never really "finish" your to-do list -- your list is there to help you keep track of details. Over time, you learn to relax.

Recognize accomplishments

Our society promotes problem solvers. We solve one problem and quickly move on to the next. The culture of many organizations rewards problem solvers. Once a problem is solved, we quickly move on to the next to solve that one, too. Pretty soon we feel empty. We feel as if we're not making a difference. Our subordinates do, too. So in all your plans, include time to acknowledge accomplishments -- if only by having a good laugh by the coffee machine, do take time to note that something useful was done.

Additional Resources for Supervisors

Decision Making
Organizing Yourself
Problem Solving
Time Management
Getting Coached
Getting a Mentor

Additional Resources About Well-Being

Emotional Intelligence
Financial Fitness
Job Satisfaction
Motivating and Inspiring Yourself
Physical Fitness
Stress Management
Work-Life Balance

The reader might benefit from also reviewing information in Management (Introduction) and Basic Overview of Supervision.



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