Tips for First Time Supervisors

March 19, 2018
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Becoming a supervisor for the first time is both exciting and daunting in equal measures. It’s an opportunity for you to learn new skills, take on more responsibilities, and earn more money. However, these feelings of excitement are often accompanied by feelings of apprehension and trepidation.

These feelings are only natural before we embark on new ventures. You should embrace these emotions and use them positively rather than reject them.

first time supervisor having 1-1 with line manager

What New Supervisors Need to Know

It’s likely that you will encounter challenges as you start your new job, just as you would in any new job role. There’s no denying that your first time supervisor role has the potential to be hard and challenging. However, as long as you are aware of these challenges in advance, you can be prepared.

Here, we list some essential things you need to know as a first time supervisor.

You must be comfortable delegating

If you transition from your previous role in the same organisation, it may feel strange delegating to people who were once your peers. Similarly, if you enter a new organisation at a supervisor level, it may feel odd instructing people who have been there longer than you.

Despite this, delegation is a crucial responsibility for supervisors. You are responsible for making sure tasks are completed, which means delegating jobs to employees. Don’t be afraid of this – embrace it as an essential part of your job role.

It’s hard work

When you take on a new job role, especially one with increased responsibility, it’ll never be a walk in the park. Develop a positive mindset and view any challenges that develop as all part of the learning process.

Because the role can be hard work, it’s important that you make time for yourself to relax and recuperate. Don’t burn yourself out – this is no good for anybody.

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You must look after employees

As well as an increased workload, you also have a responsibility to look after employees. You must ensure that employees feel happy at work and they know they can come to you with any questions and concerns.

Don’t try to be everyone’s friend

In a supervisory position it’s very difficult to be everyone’s friend, and you shouldn’t waste all your time trying to do so. For example, if you need to discipline an employee, it’s unlikely that they’ll be pleased.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be friendly – there’s a difference between the two. You should be friendly whilst also remaining professional.

Accept that you don’t know everything

You don’t have to know everything, nor should you expect to. Don’t put unnecessary extra pressure on yourself and assume that you need to have all the answers just because you’re a supervisor.

Ask your colleagues and line manager for extra help if you need it, especially in the first few weeks. You’re taking on a new job role – of course you’ll need to learn a thing or two.

woman helping her manager at work

What Makes a Good Supervisor?

Being a supervisor can be demanding and testing, especially if you’re new to it. However, there are certain skills and qualities that make the job a bit easier:

  • Strong communication skills. You need to have strong written and verbal communication skills so that employees can clearly understand the tasks expected of them. Equally, employees need to communicate easily with you. Frequently interact with them and maintain open lines of communication.
  • Strong organisational skills. You’ll be responsible for ensuring projects are of standard and deadlines are met. Furthermore, you need to make sure that employees’ workloads are fair and that you aren’t overloading people. The skills of forward thinking and planning are essential for supervisors.
  • Approachability. In a supervisory position, you must be approachable. People will be much more likely to come to you with their problems and less likely to leave them to fester. This will lead to quicker solutions and an improved team morale.
  • Empathy. You must be able to empathise and place yourself in your co-workers’ shoes. If not, you won’t understand their point of view and potential difficulties, and you won’t be able to manage them effectively. For example, an employee suffering with stress will unlikely be able to work overtime. You should always consider the circumstances of your employees.
  • Confidence. If you appear unconfident and nervous, people will assume you don’t know what you’re doing. You should always act confident and positive, as this will creates a much more productive atmosphere. Furthermore, you need to accept that not every decision you make will work out. When something goes wrong, you should remain confident and accept the mistake as part of your learning process.
  • Adaptability. Like we said, things won’t always go to plan, so you must be able to adapt your working styles for when this happens. For example, during important industry changes, project changes, and changes in staffing.
  • Understanding the importance of feedback. We all require feedback from time to time to know whether we’re on track, so it’s really important that you’re comfortable offering constructive feedback. You should always justify your feedback and explain your points clearly to the individual/group. Constructive feedback can be both positive and negative.
  • Leading by example. You should demonstrate the behaviour that you want your employees to adopt. If you’re always late, disorganised, and negative, this won’t inspire your colleagues to work their best.

supervisor training his colleague

We hope this article has offered some beneficial tips for first time supervisors. You can find some additional resources below for managerial and supervisory responsibilities.

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