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Part 8, Follow-Up and Commitment
Tip of the Month: May 20, 2014
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Supervisory Skills Articles
Tip of the Month: March 2015
TIP OF THE MONTH: Clarifying Organizational & Departmental Vision
An important aspect of providing direction to others is to promote a clear vision. Most organizations have a vision and/or mission statement, and so should each department or division. Leaders must take time to develop a vision for his or her area of responsibility and clearly communicate that vision with the team.
The department or division leader’s vision should be:
Every team member should clearly understand the department/division/organization’s vision and how he or she can continuously contribute to and support the realization of that vision.
Competencies of Great Supervisors: Part 16,
This month we continue our article series by taking a close look at the critical supervisory and leadership skill of Providing Direction. Effective leaders know that in order to build and maintain high-performing teams, they need to provide their direct reports with more than just a list of duties, tasks, and projects to complete, but must also provide them with direction. Clear direction must come from a team’s leader in order for its members to have a firm grasp of her and the organization’s overarching vision, priorities, expectations, and to understand how specific tasks and/or projects fit into the big picture.
Communication is obviously king when it comes to providing direction and supervisors must figure out the most effective way to relay information to their teams so they are actually strengthening the partnership and not just asserting their authority.
Here are a few tips for supervisors to consider adding to their effective communications quiver in providing teams with direction:
1) Take Time to Think Ahead. Be clear about what you want to say prior to speaking with employees. You might want to make a list of items you would like to address and how you want to cover each. If you need to talk with an employee regarding behavior at work, clearly define the behaviors that need to be modified and the expectations you have for improvement. The clearer you are about what needs to be accomplished and how you see it being done, the more effectively you will give direction to your employees.
2) Consider the Best Medium for Your Message. Communicate with employees in writing or in person. Consider the culture of your office. If you hold regular team meetings, use those meetings to communicate with and direct employees as a group. This can be good for team building. Email or other written direction is also acceptable if that is how your office prefers to communicate. Make certain written communications are clear and concise. Employees might miss or disregard important details if you are sending out too much information over email.
3) Lead with the Positive. Whether you are asking an employee to work on a task or project or change a behavior, direction given in a positive tone will be better received and more likely acted upon. Discuss the employee's strengths and why you think she is the best person for a particular project. If you need to correct an employee's behavior, start by stressing the employee's value to the company, then explain why you want to see her behavior modified quickly so you can both get back to enjoying a productive work environment.
4) Don’t Forget to Circle Back! Follow up with your employees on their progress. Providing direction is only one part of the job of being a supervisor. You don't want to micromanage your employees, but you do want to regularly check in with them to see how things are going and to provide any feedback. Checking on an employee's progress also gives him a chance to ask questions or offer any ideas he would like to contribute.
5) Recognize, Recognize, Recognize. Recognition should never be an afterthought. Employees appreciate being recognized and rewarded for a job well done. Make recognition a regular part of your team’s communications culture. As employees reach important milestones, meet or exceed performance standards, or come up with creative suggestions to increase productivity or efficiency, be sure to publicly recognize their contributions. Recognition also encourages others to do their best!
In a nutshell, providing direction to employees is all about clear, positive communication, timely follow-up, and recognition for a job well done. Leaders must also be consistently available and open to hear and act upon questions, concerns, and feedback from their direct reports. This open flow of communication builds trust among the team and solidifies a partnership for success!
Tip of the Month FEBRUARY 2015
FEBRUARY TIP OF THE MONTH: How to Give Constructive Feedback
An important aspect of coaching others is effectively conveying feedback so the employee/learner is not discouraged, but encouraged and empowered to grow and develop.
A few things to consider:
Again, a comprehensive and collaborative feedback process engages and encourages the employee in her own growth as opposed to leaving her feeling discouraged and demotivated.
Competencies of Great Supervisors: Part 15,
Coaching and Developing
As our ongoing series Competencies of Great Supervisors clearly highlights, today’s leaders have an awful lot on their plates. And the seemingly ever-growing list of responsibilities and job expectations leaves precious little time for one to fall short or be ineffective at any one skill. “The ability to coach and develop others” is a key competency we’re seeing more and more of in the long list of requirements for supervisory and management level (READ: leadership) roles. This indicates a focus on efficient employee training and development. But with such limited time to devote to coaching, how does a supervisor or manager ensure he or she is doing it right? Let’s dive in…
What IS Coaching?
Giving reviews, holding occasional meetings and offering advice has long been the standard for coaching and development. But, times have changed and the bar raised. To be a truly effective coach, one needs to understand what exactly coaching is and what specific steps to take to effectively coach his or her direct reports.
Coaching focuses on helping another person learn in ways that let him or her keep growing afterward. It is based on providing constructive feedback by asking rather than telling, on provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his or her goals.
Strong leaders and successful organizations understand the value in continually developing the knowledge and skills of their employee base. When new competencies are needed due to a change in the work situation, or when poor performance indicates that remedial instruction is needed, managers can leverage coaching to fill the gap. Over time, coaching can also prepare employees for advancement and taking on additional responsibilities.
Additionally, studies have shown that organizations with senior leaders who coach effectively and frequently improve their business results by 21 percent as compared to those who never coach.
Research from the Center for Creative Leadership has boiled down the skills managers need to coach others into five categories:
1. Building the relationship. Learning is made easier with trust as the foundation. Like building trust in any relationship, coaches build trust by setting boundaries, being clear about the learning and development objectives they set, showing good judgment, being patient and sincere, and following through on any promises and agreements made.
2. Providing assessment. Where are you now and where do you want to go? Helping others to gain self-awareness and insight is a key job for a coach. Coaches provide timely feedback and help clarify the behaviors that an employee would like to change. Assessment often focuses on gaps or inconsistencies, on current performance vs. desired performance, words vs. actions and intention vs. impact.
3. Challenging thinking and assumptions. Coaches spur empowered thinking by asking open-ended questions, pushing for alternative solutions to problems and encouraging reasonable risk-taking.
4. Supporting and encouraging. As partners in learning, coaches listen carefully, are open to the perspectives of others and allow employees to vent emotions without judgment. They encourage employees to strive for their goals, and they recognize their successes.
5. Driving results. Effective coaching is about achieving goals. The coach helps the employee set meaningful aspirations and identify specific behaviors or steps for attaining them. The coach helps to clarify milestones or measures of success and holds the employee accountable for them.
Managing people today is less about "command and control" and more about "development and empowerment.” The five-pronged process outlined above provides a clear approach for effectively coaching and developing direct reports, and also highlights how both parties play a role in making employee growth happen. Empowered, the employee is the driver and the coach is the supporter.
Tip of the Month: JANUARY 2015
JANUARY TIP OF THE MONTH: How to Effectively Delegate
A very effective method of both motivating and developing your team members is through delegation. For delegation to be most successful, follow these pointers:
• Ensure the person you are delegating a task or project to has the skills, desire, and time to complete the delegated task.
• Take the time to train the person on the task, or carefully review the details of the task or project you are delegating.
• If delegating a task, clearly communicate the allotted time frame, the expected endpoint, and the resources available to him or her.
• If delegating a project, clearly communicate the allotted time frame, the details of your expectations, the resources available to him or her, and any limitations.
• Offer the delegated project or task because of your confidence in the individual instead of "dumping" because you don't have the time to do it yourself.
• Consider the career goals of the individual in determining what to delegate and to whom - delegation is an opportunity to empower individuals to develop and practice skills needed for their next career step.
Competencies of Great Supervisors: Part 14,
For those who lead others, what better way to start a new calendar year than with a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and highly motivated team? Don’t have the budget for wage and salary increases or bonuses? No problem. Though conventional wisdom points to the fact that employees work for money, above all, in the long term non-cash motivators are also highly effective for motivating employees. In fact, it has been asserted that strong leadership is most closely tied to employee motivation. But how does a strong leader create engagement, enthusiasm, and commitment among her team?
As we continue with our series Competencies of Great Supervisors, we offer eight principles for leaders to immediately adopt, principles than can motivate employees beyond money:
1. Be the Energizer Bunny on your team. Rather than being an energy vampire, sucking the energy out of others, resolve to be the kind of leader who works to bring passion and positive energy to the workplace every day. Uplifting energy is contagious and will circulate throughout your team.
2. Religiously practice self-care. Great leaders have deep reserves of physical, spiritual, and emotional energy, and that energy is typically fueled by strong and supportive personal relationships, regular exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and time set aside for reflection.
3. Put your people first. Whatever your industry, as a leader, you are in the people business – the business of hiring, training, and managing people to deliver the product or service your organization provides. An organization is no better than the people who run it, so do attend to your people with a laser-like focus.
4. Be a model of integrity. With the many media stories about public and private leaders acting inappropriately and serving their own best interests, showing your employees that you value integrity can help motivate them and create a sense of pride for your organization.
5. Communication is king. Strong leaders influence others through effective communication, including choosing the right words to carry your message with the most impact.
6. Open your ears. The most effective leaders are the most active listeners. Attentive listeners don’t just listen to spoken words, but also to the hidden meaning beneath them. Work to develop a trusting rapport with your employees and be sure they know that you are sincerely available if they need someone to talk to.
7. Encourage problem solving. Just like a good therapist, a strong leader does not set about resolving all of the problems that others bring to their attention. Rather, they guide individuals toward the goal of becoming problem solvers in their own right. There’s nothing like the power of empowerment!
8. Title schmitle…lead through experience. The best leaders don’t rest on the laurels of some lofty title. Strong leaders motivate their teams through dedicated mentorship, encouragement, and true partnership.
There’s no time like a new year and its representation of a new beginning to up the employee motivation ante in your organization. Set about applying these principles and watch your team’s positive energy soar!
Tip of the Month: DECEMBER 2014
So often, time management challenges involve managing the flow of emails. Taking a few minutes to learn how to use the organization and time saving features of your email software is a worthwhile endeavor. Microsoft Outlook, for instance, has a wide variety of these features, such as filtering, categorizing, flagging, and keeping conversation threads together.
Some ideas to get started:
• Turn off email alerts
• Set up filters to sort email as it comes in, for example, filter by:
o Area of responsibility
o Type: updates, forums, promotions, general (as in Google)
• Select specific times of day to process your email
• Don’t open an email if you’re not prepared to respond
• Respond to every email within 24 hours, if possible, even if only to tell the receiver when you will respond with an answer or the requested information
• Set up flag and categorization capabilities
• If expecting email responses from specific people in a group email, identify them at beginning of the message or in subject line
• Set a good example by seldom using the “Reply All” feature when responding to emails, unless appropriate
Competencies of Great Supervisors: Part 13,
In today’s fast-paced, highly competitive, and demanding business world, we hear an awful lot about time management. Between the planning and achievement of short and long-term goals, fighting daily fires, and training, managing, and driving high-performing teams, it’s quite easy for leaders to spend their days in a frenzy of activity, often with anemic accomplishments to show for it. After all, being busy isn’t the same as being effective.
This month, in our series Competencies of Great Supervisors, we explore the elusive topic of time management and offer top tips for maximizing minutes and actualizing aims.
1. Set the Stage for Greatness
An office cluttered with piles of documents, notes, binders, boxes, and remnants of this morning’s coffee and yesterday’s team lunch does not lend itself to productivity and efficiency. Leaders need an organized workspace to orchestrate success. If order is overwhelming, focus on tackling one area at a time, including clearing out any trash, reviewing, filing, and arranging critical paper documents, storing boxes and shelving binders not regularly needed, and configuring furniture and electronic equipment for smooth workflow.
2. Make a Date with email
With the sheer volume of email communications flooding our personal and business accounts each day, a common habit (and pitfall) for many is to try to keep up by constantly checking email and then getting “sucked in”. While the effort to stay on top of these communications is commendable, the email vortex immediately takes critical time and focus from the business at hand and on to items that aren’t necessarily top priority. If this sounds familiar, opt to check email two or three times a day and set up different accounts for clients, employees, and vendors. Additionally, set up electronic folders to organize and file read emails that are important to keep for reference.
3. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
The beauty of delegation is that it’s a win-win activity. Leaders win by freeing up valuable time for more heavy-hitting activities, passing on tasks that can be performed by employees who have the requisite knowledge and abilities. Employees win by feeling empowered, taking on additional responsibilities and further developing their skills and confidence. Delegation is a cornerstone of effective time management and of strong leadership, period.
4. Be your Own Big Brother
The Internet is such a wealth of information, from market research to staying in contact with customers, prospects, and colleagues, spending time online can present a real distraction for leaders. Monitor time spend online to ensure the lion’s share is being spent on tasks and communications that matter most to the accomplishment of goals.
5. Prioritize Daily To-dos
To-do lists help keep track of daily tasks and plan time accordingly. Starting off each day with a fresh to-do list and assigning a priority level to each (1 being a top priority, 3 for less important tasks) is a proactive, engaged, and highly effective time management practice. In addition, it’s oh-so satisfying to cross completed tasks off the list…don’t forget to pat yourself on the back each time!
Time management is all about working smarter. Spending a bit of time up front on analysis, organization, and planning can make all the difference between being a busy leader and being an effective one.
Tip of the Month: NOVEMBER 2014
Tip of the Month: DEVELOPING TECHNICAL EXPERTISE
So, you’ve been appointed as Supervisor of a department? Congratulations! Though your new role comes with an anticipated learning curve, it is imperative that you quickly acquire a comprehensive understanding of the technical aspects of your department.
To help you along, here are some tips and questions to ask (and answer!) to systematically start cultivating this important knowledge base:
1. Job shadow each team member to learn what he/she does
2. Create systems and processes maps with your team to understand how work flows through the department
3. Learn the names, functions and issues surrounding all equipment and software used by your team
4. Put together a list of the individuals capable of using each piece of equipment
a. Identify who on that list is capable of training others
b. Develop a cross training plan
c. Determine if potential trainers would benefit from a “train the trainer” course to maximize efficacy and professional development opportunities
5. Develop a list of the individuals capable of using each type of software
a. What training is available to bring new users up to speed?
b. What version of the software is being used and is the department up to date?
c. Note needed upgrades for budget development each year
6. Create or delegate the creation of a maintenance and calibration plan for all equipment
a. Delegate someone to coordinate calibration and certification of equipment
7. Ensure there is backup in your department or via another department for every piece of equipment or software that requires some level of training
a. Personnel backup – more than one person capable of operating the machine or software
b. Plan B backup – a plan for completing the work when the machinery is down either for maintenance or repair
c. Manual backup – a plan for manually continuing operations to the greatest possible extent when Inter or Intranet is not functioning
These tips offer a great starting point in learning the lay of your new land. Remember, your team members and other department supervisors can provide a great wealth of insight to you…don’t forget to acknowledge their value and openly appreciate that they may know more than you do about the department and its workings at this point. With your focus and engagement, your technical expertise will further expand and deepen organically over time. Wishing you much success!
Competencies of Great Supervisors: Part 12,
As the month of November commences, so continues our article series, Competencies of Great Supervisors, with a focus on how and why strong leaders keep abreast of industry and departmental knowledge.
As a supervisor and leader of others, a sound base of knowledge and continuous learning is not just a lofty goal, it is a clear expectation. Company owners and senior level management are not the only ones expecting supervisors to have their fingers firmly on the pulse of the operations they oversee and on current industry news and changes. Team members also expect their leaders to have an understanding of the knowledge, skills and equipment required of team members, and to possess timely knowledge of their profession and industry to guide daily activities and mission-critical decisions and direction.
Though keeping up to date with industry changes, trends and news may seem like just one more time-consuming duty to add to the supervisory To-Do List, it is a practice crucial to successful leadership. But, what are the best sources to use to build a knowledge base and keep up to date? Considering the sea of information available today on most any topic, that is an excellent question! Information overload is a common pitfall. To aid in targeting the most pertinent information, below are both traditional and online sources to consider. The best sources for you will depend on your industry and on the type of work that you do.
• Mentors – mentors can provide a wealth of insider expertise and keen insight to understand it
• Trade Organizations – these organizations keep their members informed with newsletters, publications, and networking opportunities with meetings and conferences
• Trade Shows and Conferences – these can provide insight on competitors, new products and industry trends, as well as a wealth of networking opportunities
• Face-to-Face Networking – professional relationships are invaluable...a widely cast net is recommended, to include suppliers, customers and those working in related fields
• Blogs – a keyword search on the web will reveal industry blogs to review and favorite
• Twitter – find and follow industry leaders to see what they’re saying, and start a dialogue
• LinkedIn – connect with colleagues, trade groups and industry leaders for the latest updates
• Forums – the most useful forums are often on community website, industry connections can make valuable forum recommendations
Once you’ve identified the best sources for you, it’s important to make time in your daily or weekly schedule for knowledge building. As with the development of any skill, commitment and consistency are keys to success.
In today’s ever-evolving and competitive work environments, falling behind on departmental and industry knowledge, news and trends can result in reactive versus proactive decisions, missed opportunities and, ultimately, being left in the dust by the competition. As such, it is imperative to continually build on technical and functional expertise. In addition, developing expertise in one’s job and industry increases trust and respect from team members, coworkers and peers. Of course, from a leadership perspective, this is invaluable.
Tip of the Month: OCTOBER 2014
TIP OF THE MONTH: Establishing Team Norms
When forming a new team, it’s important for supervisors and leaders to take the time to meet with the team specifically to establish team norms. Team norms are a set of agreed ground rules and expectations regarding the way the team will operate and communicate. They are designed to ensure all activities move forward and everyone is on the same page. Once identified and agreed, team norms should be clearly documented and communicated to each team member. In developing team norms, it is recommended that each team member develop their own list of proposed norms and share them with the group. This process ensures each team member has a voice in the development of the norms, as well as buy-in for their adherence.
Below are some questions to consider when developing team norms:
• How will we treat each other?
• When and how will we meet?
• How will we make decisions?
• How will we resolve conflict?
• How will we view the customer?
• How will we work together?
• How will we share information?
• How will we solve problems?
• How will we share responsibility?
• How will we work with others outside the team?
Competencies of Great Supervisors: Part 11
There’s no “I” in “TEAM”
We’ve all heard this phrase with regards to fostering a sense of team in the work place. However trite or overused it may seem, the basic message holds true and serves as a key reminder of what a teamwork environment is all about. Fostering teamwork is creating a work culture that values collaboration, where no one alone is as effective as the group is together. Such an environment promotes the belief that planning, decisions, and actions are best carried out cooperatively for maximum productivity, innovation, and morale. As team leaders by default, the team environment calls upon supervisors to develop and constantly promote a sense of team among their work groups.
Though it sounds straightforward enough, creating real teamwork within an organization or work group (and not just paying lip service) can be challenging. In America, our schools, family structures, and pastimes emphasize winning, being the best, and coming out ahead of the other guys. So, most American workers are raised in more competitive rather than collaborative environments. With our challenge clearly defined, there are some powerful actions that effective supervisors and leaders can take to shatter the modern Yankee “I, me, mine” paradigm. Here are a few:
• Clarify roles and responsibilities of team members and how they fit into the larger picture. Highlight each member’s importance in the team by expecting and encouraging feedback on the functioning of the team as a whole.
• Clearly communicate to your work groups that teamwork and collaboration are an expectation. This can be done by ensuring no one completely owns an area or process by herself. People with responsibility for an area or process are to be open and receptive to new ideas and feedback from others.
• Be the teamwork poster boy or girl in your interaction with others and with the rest of the organization. Maintain teamwork yourself, even when things are not going smoothly.
• Identify and discuss the value of a teamwork culture. If organizational values are formally written, teamwork should be included as one of the key five or six values.
• Recognize and reward exceptional displays of teamwork. Do value excellent individual producers, and also base compensation, bonuses, rewards, and the performance management process itself on collaborative practices such as 360 degree feedback.
• Share important stories about past accomplishments and successes enjoyed by team efforts. In addition, individuals who are successful and promoted are team players.
As a supervisory competency, the ability to successfully instill and foster teamwork is critical and truly worthy of your focus. When successfully achieved, a team that works well together can mean the difference between productivity and lethargy, innovation and predictability, positive energy and low morale, and ultimately, goal attainment and failure. Which results do you strive for with your team? We thought so. ☺
Tip of the Month: SEPTEMBER 2014
TIP OF THE MONTH: Sending Clear Messages
When communicating in a conflict situation, be sure the messages you send are clear. Below are a few basic “do’s and “don’ts”:
• Send consistent messages – to drive home key points, be sure the messages you are communicating are stable, constant, and don’t change
• Be clear about your wants and feelings – make direct statements, don’t assume someone will “read between the lines” to figure out how you feel and what you want
• Distinguish between observations and thoughts/opinions – stick to discussing the facts and observed data and acknowledge the difference between these and your personal opinions
• Focus on one topic at a time – discuss one issue at a time rather than bringing up multiple unrelated topics and issues
• Ask questions when you need to make a statement – it is inappropriate to ask a “leading” or rhetorical question when managing conflict. Use a clear, unemotional statement.
• Send double/mixed messages – be sure what you are saying is in line with your tone of voice, facial expression, and body language to avoid confusion and mistrust.
Competencies of Great Supervisors: Part 10,
Conflict happens. It is normal and expected in any social and organizational setting. The causes of conflict are many, anything from poor communication, differing positions, competitive tensions, power struggles, ego, pride, jealousy, performance discrepancies, and compensation issues to someone having a bad day and not effectively maintaining their emotions. Managing conflict as it occurs is a critical life skill and one of the most challenging aspects of workplace supervision.
The ill effects of ignoring workplace conflict can completely railroad any well-planned project or objective, up to and including the complete dissolution of a team. A strong leader must face conflict head-on, identify its sources, leverage it as a constructive process, and move forward while keeping the team's energy focused on desired outcomes. Conflict effectively managed can result in personal and professional growth for all involved and can lead to greater team cohesion.
There are various theories to effective conflict resolution, including the Thomas-Kilmann conflict styles, which are five typical conflict resolution styles of varying efficacy which can be mixed and matched depending on the specific needs in a given environment and situation, and the Interest-based Relational Approach (IBR), which respects individual differences while helping people avoid becoming too entrenched in a fixed position.
Effective leaders must understand the various approaches to conflict management and learn to utilize the best methods to bring peace, improved understanding, and real closure to any given conflict in their team. In general, a positive interactive approach is best whenever possible, where discussion is courteous, respectful, and non-confrontational, and the focus is on the issues rather than on individuals. If these basics can be accomplished, conflict can often be effectively resolved.
Competencies of Great Supervisors: Part 9,
In our 2014 article series, Competencies of Great Supervisors, each month we‘ve highlighted a different critical supervisory skill, one that is essential to being an effective leader. This month we continue the series with a focus on the invaluable skill of listening. Ok, so listen up!
A key determinant in the success of an individual and in the quality of his or her relationships, both personally and professionally, is the ability to effectively communicate with others. When we think of communication skills, we often focus on how we speak to others, however, listening is a significant part of the communication process. Effective communication cannot take place unless a message is heard and retained thoroughly and positively by the intended receiver, and the receipt of said message is then effectively relayed back to the speaker. In other words, for communication to be truly effective, the speaker must feel genuinely heard and understood.
Interestingly, research suggests that we only remember between 25 and 50 percent of what we hear. This means that when your boss, peers, or team members talk to you for 10 minutes, you typically pay attention and/or retain less than half of the conversation. Given the importance of effective listening in business and in life in general, this is one skill worth building!
Here are 10 tips to help you develop more effective listening skills:
Really listening means hearing others with understanding and is an active process requiring conscious efforts, concentration, interest, and both physical (posture and expressions) and psychological efforts.
Practice incorporating these tips in your daily communications with others and watch your relationships improve, your overall efficacy increase, and your team’s morale and productivity soar.
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PIHRA (Professionals in Human Resources Association)
SMA (Staffing Management Association)
ASTD (American Society for Training and Development)
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