How do You Transition from Technology Expert to Supervisor and Leader?

You started a business as a technology expert with the vision of a successful product. You
started all alone. Then, you got to a spot where you have to bring on other people to help you.

So, now you’re a supervisor. News flash – not everybody feels the same way about their work. Supervisors are the front-line presence representing the company to the employees. Things get done because supervisors and employees work together.

Your job is to take the work that comes into your team, group, department, area, or business and get the work done. Study after study says that people don’t quit companies. They quit supervisors.

A supervisor has to be a manager and a leader. Managers manage things. Leaders lead
people. Try as you might, you can’t lead an object or thing. This article primarily focuses on leading people and empowering them to do their work.

NOTES: 1) You’ll run into things labeled AFOUS which means “Advice from old uncle Steve.” 2) I’ve also included links to previous blog postings that are relevant to the topic.

MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: Leadership is About More Than the Leader

  1. BUILD TRUST-BASED RELATIONSHIPS

    This is two directional. You earn theirs and they earn yours. People need to know that you have their back. If somebody wanted to chastise one of my employees, they had to go through me first. Of course, there would be a direct conversation immediately after the issue was resolved with the external source of conflict. Employees need to do the same, in reverse.

    For employees who want to play as part of the team, a good supervisor should bend and stretch to accommodate and provide consideration. For employees who want to play the edges, or the gray zones, in the rules, supervisors have every right to get very stiff-necked with regard to following rules, policies, and procedures. This is typically called “supervisor’s discretion.”

    AFOUS: You have to take people as they come. Each person has a unique set of knowledge, skills, abilities, experience, motivations, and priorities.

    AFOUS: Don’t try to be their friend. It’s OK to be friendly, but at some point you get to be the bearer of a message they won’t like.

    MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: Trust is Earned: Based on What?


  2. COMMUNICATE

    People need to know what you want them to do. Give them their tasks. Include detail of the scope, schedule, budget, and risk. Be specific.

    However, keep things in a bigger context. How does the current work fit into the bigger scheme of things? Connect to the goals and objectives of the organization and the enterprise.

    MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: What Does a Good Project Plan Include?


  3. DELEGATE

    Delegate responsibility, authority, and accountability. Don’t hold an employee accountable without giving them the authority they need to get the item of responsibility completed.

    AFOUS: As a supervisor, a bunch of work comes in to your office. Only some of it stays with you. You’re still responsible and accountable to make sure that all of it gets done.

    MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: Delegating Responsibility, Authority, and Accountability


  4. MANAGE RESOURCES

    Supervisors can have all kinds of resources made available and under their responsibility. People of course. Tools, equipment, and facilities as well. Manage the “things.” Lead the people.

    Learn how to hire good help. Learn about a candidate’s Reputation, Intent, Credentials, and Experience.

    MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: Trust is Earned: Based on What?

    The supervisor needs to ensure attendance. The biggest part of that is to make sure that the work is getting done. Each employee needs to be at work when everybody else is there.

    AFOUS: Get organized or get buried. Learn to conduct effective meetings.

    AFOUS: Build relationships with suppliers and customers to your organization.

    MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: Conducting Effective Meetings


  5. MOTIVATE

    Supervisors need to motivate employees. Catch them doing the right things. Reinforce positive behaviors. Provide feedback, good and bad. That can lead to recognition and reward.

    It can also lead to disciplinary action. The need for discipline happens. Do so in a constructive and benevolent way. Provide great feedback.

    AFOUS: The single most important word – “no.”

    MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: Dealing with Conflict


  6. MENTOR AND COACH

    Mentoring is sharing what you know. Coaching is drawing out what they already know.

    AFOUS: The supervisor needs to find a network or mentor, or both, for themselves. Supervisors need someone to talk to and bounce their troubles off of.


  7. MEASURE

    Each employee has individual goals. The use of SMART goals is a great way to format them. Some goals should address basic needs and some should stretch employees to do more.

    MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: Setting Smart Goals

    Individual goals should be linked to yours and above you. Make sure the employees know how what they do contributes to the success of the business.

    Benchmark the work of your organization with other similar organizations. Do some research. How can things be better for the organization and the employees?

    MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: Benchmarking

    MAC-OU INC BLOG LINK: Measure Something Meaningful: Activities, Outputs, or Outcomes?


  8. USE WHAT YOU KNOW

    Employees gain knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience in the process of doing the work. How did they do the last time? Are they ready for something bigger?

    “Rinse, lather, and repeat.” Just like washing your hair, this is a repeating process. Sometimes the supervisor needs to skip around the eight items and deal with the problem of the day as it occurs.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mr. Czerniak retired after a successful career that culminated in fifteen years of experience as an internal consultant and “change agent.” He is currently an Expert-in-Residence at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator and a volunteer at the Troy Historic Village and Historical Society; and SCORE.

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