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How Supervisory Skills Keep Small Issues From Becoming Big Problems

Spoiler: It will save HR lots of time!

Newly promoted managers often find themselves in the unique position of being a peer one day and the manager of their former peers the next. Without proper training, new managers might experience an influx of situations that, if not properly handled, could cause headaches for HR teams down the road.

For example, after transitioning into their new role new managers may discover that a few of their former peers have become more relaxed towards certain rules. Their former peers might now assume that their friendship or relation to the manager will allow them to get away with it. This can create tension with other team members who continue to strictly adhere to rules and expectations.

Many organizations promote their best employees to management positions. Just because someone is a great employee doesn't necessarily mean they will be a great manager.

Rising tension and a lax adherence to the rules can lead to performance issues, missed deadlines, and lower-quality work. Distrust, anger, and conflict can spread quickly throughout the team, possibly even resulting in increased turnover. While these issues build under the surface, the new manager may struggle to address work habit issues head on.

In the search for an approach that doesn’t make them appear out of touch with their former peers or viewed as being micromanaging, they may choose to simply avoid performance discussions entirely. Left unchecked, these challenges for the team will only grow over time and will eventually end up on the doorstep of HR. However, long before these issues reach this critical climax, an opportunity exists for the supervisor to take action and quell rising tension on the team.

How well do your managers handle common workplace issues?

Organizations that train their managers to separate performance issues from work-habit challenges will be able to manage performance expectations. Rather than only dealing with issues once they blow up, they could coach an employee to desired corrections and support a culture of participation and openness. Fixing these issues down the line always costs more than the cost to prepare team leaders to handle these challenges before they morph into major HR problems. So why don’t more organizations provide front line supervisory training?

Newly promoted; Feeling Under-Prepared

According to Career Builder 58% of team leaders say they did not receive any management training at all. In a 2016 study of 500 managers, 87% wish they had more training before becoming a manager even though 99% of companies that were surveyed reported they offer management training.

Many organizations underestimate the skills required to lead successfully, or they don’t realize that these skills aren’t the same skills that make someone a successful individual contributor. Packing all of a new leader’s essential skills training into an initial orientation before being ‘set loose’ is terribly misguided.

We suggest organizations offer an ongoing process of development where team leaders can learn and practice skills in the safety of the classroom. In this type of environment, new managers can practice their skills between sessions that are spread out over time while having an opportunity to report on successes and challenges. Supervisors in this type of setting will also be able to build off of each other, strengthening the organization’s culture overall.

7 Essential Supervisory Skills

Equipped with essential supervisory skills, we expect new supervisors to execute the following seven actions without consulting their HR team:

  1. Diagnose performance gaps correctly. Identify whether issues are related to training or coaching and facilitate the appropriate next steps.
  2. Convene a “new skills” training meeting to get team members up to acceptable levels of performance.
  3. Coach team members who experience a drop in performance to find the root cause and agree on a plan of corrective action.
  4. Provide meaningful feedback discussions that not only provide the specifics of any challenges, but also recognize positive progress being made.
  5. Use delegation as a tool to increase team members’ skills while also engaging team members by providing new and challenging work opportunities.
  6. Proactively address the situation whenever a team member’s work habits fall outside of company policies, procedures, or expected patterns of behavior. Team leaders will  hold the team member responsible and accountable for correcting any work habit challenge.
  7. Initiate a corrective discipline process to provide one more opportunity for a team member to correct the behavior in question.

These are basic supervisory functions that can be taught, practiced, and mastered.Vital Learning’s Leadership Essential Series offers flexible delivery options that teach all these foundational skills (plus more) that team leaders need to be successful on the human side of this critical role.

How Leadership Training Works

This curriculum focuses on learning by doing, and it includes short scenarios that are used in numerous practice situations throughout the training to allow team leaders to develop confidence. Behavioral modeling provides a dry run for team leaders before they do a job-specific skill practice where they are applying a model to their very own work situation. Working in triads, team leaders take turns practicing with one person taking the role of the team leader, the second person in the role of the team member, and third as the coach/observer.

Two kinds of reinforcement are built into each course. Gamification is used to engage leaders while skills are being learned and mastered. Additionally, each workbook contains a “48-hour reinforcement assignment” in which the supervisor attempts to apply the model to a variety of situations that are provided. The 48-hour assignment provides a great follow-up opportunity for the new supervisor’s boss, who can schedule a post training meeting to discuss what was learned and how the supervisor will implement their learning. According to the “Transfer of Training,” by Mary Broad & John Newstrom, the upline manager is the key to transfering what was learned back to the job.

Participants are given access to a portal called the “Vital Hub” to offer additional support and exercises. In the Vital Hub, supervisors can download worksheets to use in their day-to-day work experience for planning difficult conversations and for documenting the outcomes of these conversations to ensure accountability and results.