“Supervision is a critical function of leadership that is often overlooked,” writes certified professional coach Rita Sever in “Supervision Matters: 100 Bite-Sized Ideas to Transform You and Your Business.” “Yet the quality of supervision is often what makes or breaks a leader — and an organisation.”
The last thing anyone wants is to be part of “breaking” their organisation. But what if you are, and you don’t realise it? There are subtle signs which indicate that you’re not fulfilling your potential as a manager.
Here are nine ways you may be failing your team:
1. You send mixed signals to your employees.
If you’re best friends with your employees one minute, and the next you’re “coming down hard and heavy on their work,” you may be sending them mixed signals and losing productivity as a result, writes Sever. Similarly, if you give your employees vague assignments and unclear due dates, and then hold them accountable for missed deadlines or errors, your expectations probably aren’t clear and you could be heading for confusion — and possibly souring the relationship.
2. You don’t bother to give any feedback.
Some supervisors say, “If you don’t hear from me, you’re doing fine,” Sever writes. The next minute (or so it seems), the employee is fired. Bouncing back and forth between extremes is unhelpful to the supervisee.
There are ways to be direct and constructive as well as tactful when giving feedback as a manager. “Give prompt and specific feedback,” Sever recommends.
Likewise, asking for feedback from your employees can open the door to communication. “Ask your employees how your style of supervision works for them,” recommends Sever. “Do not defend. Do not argue. Just listen,” she writes.
3. You let things go.
If an employee asks for guidance, you blow it off by saying you’ll get to it but really decide you’re too busy to follow up, Sever writes.
4. You ignore the organisation’s policies.
You think HR policies are made-up rules that don’t have anything to do with the real world, Sever writes. HR is there for a reason, and it’s not up to you to bend the rules.
5. You don’t meet with your employees one-on-one except for their reviews.
By meeting with employees one-on-one only during annual evaluations, bad managers “think this will make it seem really special,” writes Sever. But really, managers should be meeting one-on-one with their supervisees regularly to give them feedback and to be available for questions and guidance.
Sever recommends starting small if you’ve been having trouble meeting with employees. Ten minutes per week to start can be useful, and by scheduling the meeting ahead of time, you’re both held accountable. “As important as keeping the meeting is making it two-way,” Sever writes. “This is not a ten-minute lecture. Listen at least as much as you talk.”
6. You play favourites.
You let some supervisees get away with things you’d never allow for others, like showing up late or missing deadlines. To avoid your team feeling like you play favourites, take each of your employees out to individual lunch or coffee, Sever recommends. Make sure to write down a few thoughts and reflections afterwards for future reference, both to remember what you talked about and to make note of any ideas you two might have generated.
7. You make it clear your employees work for you.
You remind your employees of this every day by looking down on them or giving orders. But a good supervisor works in partnership with their coworkers, including their supervisees, rather than acting as an authoritarian.
8. You make it hard for employees to talk to you or brainstorm ideas.
Bad managers “believe that ‘If you give them an inch, they will take a mile.’ And it all starts when you listen to them — even for a minute,” writes Sever. On the contrary, meetings are essential and communication is the key to a productive work relationship. One way to make team meetings more welcoming and open to discussion and contributions from all employees is to open with an icebreaker or a quick game. “Spending two to three minutes at the start of your team meetings on something lighthearted is worth its weight in gold,” writes Sever.
9. You aren’t on board with your company’s mission.
If someone mentions the organisation’s missions or values, bad managers “tune out and hum ‘Row, row your boat’ to distract themselves,” says Sever. If you don’t believe in your company’s mission, how can you expect it of your team?
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