New supervisors have a tough transition to make – but if they achieve mastery in five key areas they can be successful.

Contacos-Sawyer and Wright suggest five key factors that determine success or failure for new supervisors: Alignment, planning/problem solving, communication, motivation and compliance.

1)  Alignment – A big mistake new supervisors make is to continue to perform in their old roles. There are two elements to alignment – aligning themselves to their new roles and aligning their department to the organization. The new supervisor must learn to transition from “buddy” to supervisor and must understand the department and the organization’s goals.

2)  Planning/Problem Solving – Supervisors must learn to plan – the work, the schedule and the resources

Planning the Work: What results do you intent to achieve, and what must you do to get those results?

Planning the Schedule: How much time is required for each task and subtask? What needs to happen before something else can happen?

Planning the Resources: How many people, which materials, how much and when?

Problem-Solving Skills: 

  1. Gather information and data to help you understand the problem
  2. Do a Cause-and-Effect
  3. Write a problem statement
  4. Brainstorm Solutions
  5. Select and implement the best solution
  6. Review. Is the problem resolved?
  7. Revise/Rework as necessary

3)  Communication – Communicating down is the most troublesome aspect – new supervisors need to concentrate on:

  • Performance expectations
  • Performance feedback
  • Departmental and organizational goals and objectives
  • Change  

4)  Motivate – The more positive your attitude, the more effective a supervisor you can be.  Use thank you, please, etc.  Hearing praise about a job well done will help to motivate your employees.

5)  Compliance – All supervisors must be trained on discrimination, harassment, and compensation.

    • Supervisors actions and inactions contribute to the level of liability an organization faces
    • Supervisors face potential individuals liability
    • New supervisors often make big mistakes in wage and hour issues
Not documenting performance issues on an ongoing basis is also a big issue for new supervisors.
Remember: New Supervisors must be fully trained and ready to deal with employment issues. They must know how to handle things like compensation and appraisals. You can’t expect them to act appropriately right out of the box but you can and should train them to do it!


– California Employer Daily Newsletter



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