The hardest day a leader, manager, or supervisor will ever have is the first day in their new position. On the first day, the supervisor comes in with grandiose ideas how they will be the “leader” and transformer of individuals in the group into a “team” that beats all existing records. They will develop a spirit of collaboration and camaraderie that everyone in the organization will want to join. Other leaders with lesser ability will clamor to your office to know the secrets of ultimate team building and success. For most this is a dream. Unbeknownst to most new supervisors, the stage has already been set for failure because they did not do two critical steps to lay the foundation for their success.
Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up to fix the problems. The foundation for success begins when the supervisor does some introspection and determines what is truly important to them as a person. This is extremely difficult for most people, because they are afraid of what they will find when they examine their inner self. For example, you may realize you are truly not a “people person”. You can decide to work on that skill, or develop other approaches to make effective connections to the individuals who now work for you. But you learned a critical lesson about yourself and can now work around the problem to make connections. Effective leaders make connections to their teams on the one to one level. They are authentic about themselves and what they want to accomplish. Supervisors create goals that they believe should be reached, but never make the deep down connections at the individual level.
If you inherent an effective team, or group in need of development, you are starting from scratch. The existing effective team may instantly dissolve when you arrive. Again, you must make the connection at the individual level that you are someone to willingly follow. People will do what you tell them to do because you are their boss. The supervisor who uses this hard power is “pulling” the people to his or her goals. You have the power to reward or discipline them. People will go the extra mile for people they believe will help them, and are looking out for them. These people are “following” their leader to a goal that benefits everyone. Teams are effective, when the team is focused on a goal, and striving to reach it. If you are a bad supervisor your individuals may form up as a “team” to get rid of you. When you are a “leader” and people follow you, and your goals are aligned with the organizations goals, then as a team, you are benefitting the organization.
The second myth and mistake new supervisor make when they are first promotes is not coming in with a set of rules everyone must follow. That sounds counter intuitive to come in with a set of rules when you want to develop a team. Think about the statement in a different way. When you come in with a set of rules for people to follow you are setting the table of expectations. You are setting the stage for success by letting people know not only the sport you are playing, but the field you are playing on, and rules that must be followed. By developing a set of rules and setting down what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior you are creating the foundation for success. When you come in trying to build camaraderie and say, “we will make it up as we go” you have just made a fatal mistake for you becoming a leader. As situations arise you have not set foundation for your decision making. Your individual’s, notice I did not say team, will be always be wondering what is and is not acceptable. They will push the limits because they do not know what the boundaries are. You will become angry because the individuals are breaking your nonexistent rules. By trying to be friendly and not setting down rules you are in fact going to make it hard to create a team. In fact you will create a dysfunctional atmosphere because your individuals do not know what to expect from you, the supervisor. By first setting your rules down, and consistently following them, you can then develop a sense of acceptable behavior with consequences for rule breaking. Then, you can start developing team norms that are developed and agreed upon by your team.
The first day as a supervisor is always the hardest. The dream of the position now meets reality. By understanding two simple rules you can significantly improve your chances of success. First, determine what is important to you. Second, setting rules and standards for people to follow, you are now setting the foundation for success and building a highly effective team.