What is expected of a first line supervisor today, and are they doing it already?
Change has become so significant in our World today. It affects and ripples back to every corner of the world, and affects it in one way or another. Affecting the likes of everything happening today, because of what happens globally. Change has become taxing, taxing heavily on the aspect of leadership; people today demand more accountability and information from their leaders. They want to have a say in some of the decision making, especially where it concerns their safety and wellbeing. Because of the fact that things are changing radically today, people become anxious, and nervous as well as frustrated; and in some instances it manifests violently, studies have shown that ineffective and none transparent, even bias leadership in some instance are directly the result of internal instability. We can see this, even in some countries that are experiencing violence and public disobedience, it points to a lack of some form of leadership in some tier or society – anywhere in the scope of leaders; from the likes of parents, right up to and including statesmen.
Because of this phenomenon, leadership has become the one issue that needs redressing. Mainly it’s all because of change that is no longer in step with every generation’s needs, thus no longer effecting each generation, one at a time, only, no. Leadership as an issue has become cardinal to having and maintaining a civilised society, we see it daily, and experience the likes of major political turnabouts, and unrest all around the world. With people rebelling against their leaders, and it escalating into violence to the point of wars erupting, then it points to defective leadership styles. It almost seems like all the “old” generations are facing off against the “new” generations, by way of their belief and thinking – they demand attention now.
We have never seen this phenomenon at this scale, and it’s about to encroach on our own workplaces, are we ready? We should not procrastinate and drag our feet on this issue. Because it’s happening at lightning fast speed, change at this speed, or level, and magnitude, has never anywhere in our history been recorded – ever. It is all far reaching, wide spreading and globally intertwined in its effect. These are the next generation leaders of all tiers in society…we need to shape their future so that we can entrust them with ours.
The issues that need urgent attention here are addressing knowledge based leadership. This new generation want and need leaders that are knowledgeable; efficient and effective, accountable and ethical, that can make the hard decisions. They demand it.
Grooming new leaders today is no easy task, because they swing with perceptions. Therefore it should start from the very first day that they come in contact with others; there we should start shaping their reality – pre-school and school. Leadership principles start forming with our first interactions in our own age group; here we learn all about competition, and because of it we have become a very competitive society, entrenching the beliefs of the rat race on our followers, children and society – all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy – is this still the right foundation, to groom future leaders with? When we know that the fear of failure is real. People will procrastinate because the fear being ridiculed, judged, and they also fear losing. Later in life this becomes a real problem, as it impairs peoples psychological sate. They become depressed, withdrawn, operating in the back, avoiding responsibility and accountability at all cost. They won’t perform at optimum, because it will force on them to keep filling the expectation. So they keep their performance at normal. We have come full circle; people can no longer all handle the burden and stress associated with management and leadership as well as very competitive behaviour, politics and life all riding your neck. For them we need to teach that managing, and leadership have both very dissimilar attributes and elements, one need to master a lot of to become a good leader today, and that everything in life has an element of risk involved. Even relationships are risky. We need to plan, and grow, and learn to anticipate risk. It’s called people skills. Then we also see fewer able and capable people coming through the ranks. As we pile on the positions the bigger the responsibility gets, if we don’t have a proper foundation, how will we survive leadership? The more people you have the more dynamics you will face. So the problem will escalate. We have to readdress the concept of management from both perspectives – to include skills, and coping mechanism for people…this generation wants immediate gratification. Their planning input, and effort and expectations just don’t align. Therefore we need to be concerned more about how we are going to get our “green” people much more proficient, by understanding their psyche and cognitive working.
Here follows what is considered to be the basic skills required today of first and second line supervisors. With every generation coming into the work force today, we observe that they have become more and more educated. This generation coming into management want to know WHY? They therefore thrive on information, and in the absence thereof they become weak and procrastinate. Starting with the first-line supervisor and turning on the “leadership gene”, right from the get-go, only then will we be able to solve this dilemma, if we start early on. We will all agree that we need more competent leaders at the lower levels of organisation in the near future that will know how to lead with knowledge. We just don’t see that happening now, we want them to take initiative and tow the line, this is however not their generations way of doing things, they are a knowledge generation; meaning they require knowledge, so it stands to reason that we have to give it to them, and very early on already. This is referred to as the knowledge based supervisor leadership challenge style.
The Knowledge Based Supervisor leadership challenge;
Creating true leaders at the first line supervisory level today, requires firstly a buy in, a buy into the organisational values, we don’t want them to be doing and following their own heads alone, they need to be “guided home” so to speak, with good old fashioned values. People need to value the value of good norms and values enough to fight and enforce them, believing and living with value is just not enough either. It needs to be taken ownership of in order to survive.
Then they need proper business theory; there are tons of theories out here that can lead them astray. If we don’t provide the proper theory, then precedents will be followed, then we will be breeding miss directed people, unable to fit in with organisations, because they just don’t see the fit – it’s critical that new candidate leaders share and care about organisational culture and values. This should be their foundation. We need them to be knowledgeable and able as well, to lead with that knowledge, and be confidant in their abilities and capabilities as leaders.
Today many managers complain about Negativity festering at grass roots level, already our very melting pot for future leaders are spoilt. Negativity manifests itself when we perceive or feel that life’s demands are exceeding our ability to deal with them. When everything becomes urgent and important, then we get overloaded. When you feel that your life is being “pushed” or “pulled” in different directions, then you are undergoing stress that causes frustration that eventually turns into aggression, out of desperation to make sense of our situation. We need order restored in the work place. Prioritization needs to kick in.
Then there is learning; we achieve all these things through learning. Adults learn things in different ways than children do. So it stands to reason that we need knowledge of how to teach. Because adults have opinions they want to test, or tested, to validate their knowledge, they also want recognition if they are right, and they want control over what they are told to master, and learn, with feedback. They need to be validated to grow, acknowledged daily to build confidence, or on a regular basis, all in order for them to persist with their work. Next the most import thing to get in place is policy and procedures, to get to a situation of uniformity that translates into consistency and continuity uniformity in all things. It’s called organisation. In the absence of these basic attributes, this generation cant function at all – they become dissatisfied…and then despondent. How can we ever expect, or hope to have proper leaders in the near future if they start out in our deprived environments; making them all negative, with attitudes?
When you interview them and ask them how they perceive the work environment, then they reply by saying that they feel that they are “raised” in an unsure environment, here they feel they have no hope, no prospects, especially when we manage them haphazardly; it turns their stress on to boiling point. If we keep telling them how it’s done and how it is, and will be, without capacitating them, and giving them the capabilities, enough for them to start believing it enough, to see it, and start experiencing it happening, for themselves then they are not part of the organisation, alienated. Being or becoming part of something is a process towards eventually and ultimately inculcating it, and making it our own reality. How can we ask of them to become participatory, when they feel deprived, unacknowledged, and alienated?
The other aspect is choosing the right people, not everyone are destined, or wanting to be a leader. Keep people from becoming totally negative by dragging change out over years, it then become culture. If the raw material is this rotten already, how do we change their perception when it’s already become a culture? The thing with negativity is it spreads like propaganda, like wild fire, until it has consumed all the fresh air and material, and it becomes entrenched when the reality persist unchanged for a long-time.
In order to change an organisation and its people around, we need power to do it with. Our current leaders need to be given real power in order to succeed, in fighting off negativity, and bringing about real valued change. It will only happen when we set worthwhile goals; that create clarity, direction, motivation, and focus, and then have the means and will to achieve it.
They say knowledge is power, true, but we need more real power.
The types of power that supervisors require, is the power of;
- Reward – supervisors must be able to give the rewards they deem appropriate
- Coercion – they must be in a position to change behaviour, and enforce it
- Legitimate – they must have the authority
- Reference – charisma, learn people skills, learn how to be liked
- Experience – expertise, become knowledgeable
Stuff they say leaders should know…They say!
They say; know your job requirements;
They say a supervisor’s job is total preparedness; to prepare himself and his co-workers for every day and any eventuality…
They say a manager’s job is to accomplish the mission; with what he has…and if he does not have supervisors that are prepared, he is going nowhere.
They say; Managers require a power. Power is the ability to create action that will render a result with people. However, before we get to this stage, we need to be appointed, we need authority.
They say; managers require some form of authority. Authority is the mandate or justification to use such abilities – power deliberately. To accomplish the goals that will assist to realise the mission.
They say; Successful managers utilize their time wisely; they work smarter not harder. Their objective is to be both efficient and effective. You cannot be either if you cannot keep up with your work, and manage your time.
They say; Values have a lot to do with how people view your credibility and reference power.
The values most sought out in leaders by people today are;
- Openness and
Two words that need some reference, and explanation here, they are management and leadership.
With these two words combined, it becomes the elements of power and authority; you need both to be in a position of leadership and management, to become an executive. To either lead and or manage. Authority gives you the justification to use your power. Then we get an appointed authority. It gives you legitimacy. Legitimacy refers to being able to exercise your powers legally, as a leader or manager. Things that give leaders and managers power, that is obtainable;
Types of power;
- Reward – supervisors gives the rewards
- Coercion – aim is to change behaviour by compelling people to conform, to conformity.
- Legitimate – authority
- Reference – charisma
- Export – expertise or experience
The thing about leadership is this;
Leadership traits are situational, intrinsic and equal to the level they are at; present from birth, some people know how to waken these traits at an early age, some later some never.
Therefore in most instances leadership has to be evoked; either via major event, or made active via transformational interventions, where we consciously decide to become a leader and train, learn, study, and get the required expertise. The whole aim is to become competent. To be the best you can, to stand in line to get promoted, noticed, or lead effectively. You have to know what you are on about, and this must create trust amongst those you lead. Therefore, trust is part of leadership. Trust is the first key component required in order for leadership to succeed. Then far sightedness/ or being visionary or entrepreneurial. These attributes are abilities to enable us to see into the future, to see the cause and effect of events, the ability to anticipate, and prepare – preparedness. These are characteristics we require to be good leaders, we call them principles or values…of leadership.
Principles of supervisors in leadership
- Leaders must set an example; of the values they want to see develop
- Be technically proficient; know the job
- Leaders must be knowledgeable
- Make sound and timely decisions
- Good leaders must be consistent
- Know your people and look out for their well-being
- Keep your followers informed
- Develop a sense of responsibility in your work environment
- Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised and accomplished
- Train as a team
- Use the full capabilities of the organisation
- Know yourself and seek self-improvement
Here are factors that impact on supervision, and leadership;
Four major factors that determine leadership, the;
- Situation- situational, in some instance you will be great in others not
- Follower – their willingness to be commanded
- Leader – how you are led will impact on how you lead
- Communication – the ability to communicate well
We look for certain values in people that will make them good leaders
Therefor it stands to reason that we develop and entrench core values, they are;
Personal Values are directly relevant to building credibility, although our individual values and needs may differ, from person to person. However, some values are still universal. Values are those human qualities that guide us in our conduct; those aspects that make us civilised and human, the likes of; empathy, caring, respect, good manners, integrity, truth, justice, work ethic etc. Values develop into attributes we want present; “esprit de corps” team work, pride, motivation. A leader is only as strong as his people are strong in values.
Organisational values; Motivation; working environment, expectation and reward, to get top performance from people you need to motivate them, satisfy their needs, and wants, it takes different aspects to motivate people. It’s all about delivering on their expectancy, and then they will do that which is counter expected. Two areas of expectations are to be satisfied before people will perform well;
Attributes required; for delivering on peoples expectancy;
- Define the expectations of both the employer and employee
- Increase the perceived value coupled to work performed, by evaluating it
- Provide realistic job expectations and define the results required
- Coach for success; empower, train, teach guide, mentor
- Provide the expected and required support; to perform the task with
- Provide timely and specific feedback; both up and down
- Provide rewards for success, and penalties for failure
- Pay does not reflect the effort
- Security; job satisfaction, contracts, legislation, good working environment etc.
- Working conditions
- Work relationships; labour relations
- Supervision; quality
- Company policy and administration
- The work it self
If you don’t take care of the dissatisfiers the satisfiers won’t matter
Then consistency and continuity is required to maintain momentum and growth, supervisors need to know more about people dynamics.
People like routine, and then some excitement in between. Self-esteem is very important for the supervisor, a must have, if the energy of the supervisor dwindles, and he or she gets withdrawn, then all halts, self-actualisation is a big part of creating high energy in supervisors. They need to feel good so that they can make others feel better. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Look at the size of control spans for junior supervisors, start small.
Control Span is the amount of people you have under your control, and how they report into supervisors. A good ratio is 1/6 and the norm is 1/10. Anything more than that, is uncontrollable. Quality is normally the first thing to go out the window, if you have control spans larger that the max of 1/10.
A Control Span is also explained as a supervisor’s way of looking at/ after their people. You can see the difference with tight and broad based spans. Tight have good discipline and camaraderie; broad have none of the aforementioned visible.
Control, in control span refers to how people are seen and managed. This aspect will determine how supervisors will look at their subordinates, and work them or work with them. It’s the classic – X and Y theory. X – where its believed that all people are inherently lazy, and need to be pushed/ forced to work, where Y on the opposite side, is prone to right condition, they will work like crazy, if we create the right atmosphere/environment conducive to success. How do you view your subordinates?
Control is what you do, to get people to perform certain tasks. It also speaks to the issues of reinforcement; the ability to correcting behaviour, the likes of positive and negative behaviour, with rewards and sanctions where we link behaviour with rewards and punishment, in which case it’s applicable, to form and shape a desired behaviour. The problem is people stop growing and giving it all they got, and become cautious of semantics leaders with petty stick and carrots management styles, and then they tend to procrastinate. Also In the absence of leadership, any fear of being disciplined for a lack of performance and accountability, disappears. Along with that follows the fear of failure, then the motivation to perform disappears along with it. Therefore, coercion is also linked to the presence of leadership, it has a place, but it’s not the best long term solution to have, rather build conducive environments where we share and share alike, where everyone is a leader, and don’t need to be micro managed, and supervised cautiously in order to want to work. First we need to use positive enforcement for turning around a negative, and then the negative to get back to positive. The whole aim is to change behaviour to productive. The tighter the supervision, the better the control, these issues speaks to the principle of Control Span.
Then Span – in control span – refers to the amount of people you have, how you arrange them into units with supervisors, and reporting structures will determine how much you will be able to do with them, and how hygienic you run shop. The less supervision you have the less hygienic the group, people become rotten when unsupervised and inspected, then work less, and less. They find gaps in the system and open them up for others; they find ways of circumventing the rules, and regulations. Supervision needs to be close-knit and tight with their subordinates. Only by having a good ratio of supervisors to workers, do we have less rotten aspects to deal with.
You cannot manage that which you cannot measure or command and control.
You need to have your finger on the pulse, and know what’s happening in your environment, and area of jurisdiction. Information is power, so too is knowledge. We want to be seen to be measuring, commanding and controlling people well.
- 1. Let’s look at forms of controlling people are available to managers;
Control asks; What is happening and what should be happening today? That’s the question at supervisory level that needs to be asked daily in order to be in control.
We control people through the effective us of communication techniques. Miscommunication and a lack of communication is disastrous for unity of effort, so too is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the processes of co-ordinating work, and then learning the job itself. Therefore, good and both effective communications are paramount to having and exercising proper control over people and their work. We only control people effectively; if and when, we can communicate the knowledge they require in performing their tasks, if and when, we can assist them in developing the required skills, firstly.
Secondly, if we can define and enforce invisible boundaries for people; their work times, rules, and regulations, as well as the terms and conditions that govern their work environment and any other requirements of the post that people have to conform to. Then also reinforcing values; by also reiterating the importance of conformity to good, and none conformity to group pressure, or unwarranted and bad influence, and to rather just concentrate on the important aspect of their job and function. Then we have focused people on things that matter. We have to communicate with our people, and a lot; (this can either be verbal, written, taught, couched, or learnt, or be transferred electronic mostly), but any form of communication that is customary, will be deemed effective to give people more instruction and to have the ability to control them.
The point is this, only if you have mastered essential skills; both management and leadership with your finger on the pulse, and know what’s happening in your environment, and area of jurisdiction. Then you will be seen to be measuring, commanding and controlling people well.
These actions require strength of conviction and character, because they are always plagued by our selfishness, and self-analysis, especially on the side of the enforcer of control, and discipline. Leadership is testing, it rides on our conscience daily, it will keep asking what are the consequences if I act, versus don’t act at all, especially on this or that issue or instance. It’s a balancing act between becoming overbearing and doing just enough to get by. Emotionally, it could become draining; having to choose between two contradictions, that of moral strength and self-discipline – or conformity and undisciplined behaviour – daily. We have to live by the sword and die by it. We cannot have rules for others as supervisors that we ourselves don’t practice and conform to. We need to explain the inference/ meaning and importance of accountability and responsibility.
Supervisors especially need to understand that the strength and unity of command is only as strong as the weakest link in chain of command. They need to see the fit, by how much are they responsible in their own capacity as supervisor, and whose neck is on the line if they fail, because they will be held accountable. When the picture and purpose of who is accountable and who is responsible becomes clearer, then the fit in the organisation becomes more relevant. People enjoy responsibility, as it is power. Only if they know they have backup and support. If this is the case, then why are they not all taking up their duty?
Fix the problem and not the blame
We should stop seeking out people to blame for things that go wrong, or don’t happen as they should, fix the problem don’t shift the blame. It’s all about causes and effect. Something caused them to have no effect. Find the cause and eliminate the effect of ineffectiveness; supervisors are always challenged to find the cause, the problems that hamper performance. They too can become battle tired, and suffer meltdown. If that is not the problem, then we need to teach them the right questions to as to get the right answers. They need to ask quantifying, and qualifying questions, in order to better understand what the influences on them are. Who, Where, What, When and How, are the right questions to ask, and then you quantify, qualify and identify the problem. Both in the internal environment and external, by asking the relevant questions first; this brings us back to effective use of management techniques. This also relates to knowing how to start extracting information and giving orders, or instructions. We need to be effective in our combination of roles as leaders and both managers.
Preparedness ask of us daily; What do we need more of and what do we need less of. Do we need more supervision, and less training? Or vice versa…what’s the problem that needs a fix here. Or is it a skill? Is there a new skill, or more skills required, or is it a perishable skill, versus hard and soft skills, what is needed? Performance punishing; where people that deliver above average get to do more jobs, and then people become battle tired. This happens for a few reasons. There is not enough reward or motivation, disparity in the work place,, too many slackers getting by, without reprimand. Personal problems, ill, sickness, emotional and or addiction taking its toll, keeping him bound. Find the rout cause, with each individual.
If there are no visible problems with the people; then we revert back to the aspect of communication again; and look at the context and content of the communication level. How well do we communicate and relate ourselves as leaders to others, and our instructions, are they clear? Do our subordinates know their job description, the goals of the organisation? It’s all about content and context then, if the rest is in place. Where we understand content to be what comes out of your mouth, and then context then the way/ manner in which the message was delivered. The tone, is tuned by the tone/manner the message was delivered in, either; shouting, rolling your eyes, in an arrogant tone, talking down, derogative, body language speaks books, and then people distance themselves, they literally shut down etc.
A supervisor is supposed to know these things, how to be a great communicator; a mentor, a guide, and a confidant, a hands on person. If a supervisor has not rapport with his people they are lost.
The biggest asset you have in any supervisor is the one with the ability to resolve stumbling blocks for his people all by himself, and they trust him and he is their confidant, councillor and mentor.
Experienced supervisors learn that there is value of becoming the councillor – not a friend – to his subordinates, but a sounding board. There are two types of counselling; One-on-one and group counselling’s, if effective it then become an indispensable quality exercise, especially in keeping the trust and respect as well as communication line open, and flowing. People who are well communicated with, don’t ask WHY? They know why.
Supervisors also need to realise they can be everything their subordinates except. We all have certain strengths and weaknesses. In life you cannot be judge, jury and executioner. Furthermore, caution here, you must be friendly with your subordinates, courteous, and respectful, but never be a friend. Where supervisors become a friend to all their subordinates, it never translates into anything good, as jealousy, spite and favouritism is just waiting to bite you in the back as reward for befriending subordinates. Supervisors are the receptors of all change, be it good or bad. And in your lifetime as a supervisor you will taste both. Then its decision time, taking stick time, was it worth it to be friends with subordinates. This does however not prevent one from being courteous, a listener, especially where subordinates are looking for advice that enables them to solve issues, either of a private, personal, or work related matter. Then we council them, only on matter we have authority on. Remember, complaining is also a way of communicating frustrations, where communication becomes estranged. However; there is no such a thing as an OFF THE RECORD conversation either. Remember to be discreet, but if it – the info shared – requires action, then I have to act, I am compelled. Counselling calls for professional conduct and interaction. It enforces positive discipline, giving people tips on how to stay out of trouble. It breeds confidence, and trust. Especially if you see something is wrong, or going wrong, or is going to go wrong, you are compelled to act, and do something about it. Starting with your counselling, it’s the first step in the act of acting – discipline, use constructive criticism. Encourage people to report stuff, events, and whatever happened.
As a supervisor, reporting and feedback should be part and parcel of your daily duty. You have not given feedback, either positive and or negative, if it is not done in a written report from either, your job as a supervisor is to write it down. Sometimes we assume too much, we assume that our superiors just want to hear the good stuff. No, they also need to know / be reminded that the back of the building is on fire. Corrective feedback only takes place where it’s written down, noted, and fed into the right channels. Then we can expect corrective action to follow, or we can now follow up and then follow through if nothing happens, by escalating any such report. No job is ever done, if the paperwork is not done. Then it’s back to managing, leading and commanding people.
- 2. Commanding People;
Command asks; how fast can we get a grip on the situation that will require our attention/service? That’s the question at supervisory level that needs to be asked daily in order to be commanding? When do we start commanding people?
- We can command people when we need rapid interventions.
- However this can only be done with trained and skilled people.
- You cannot command people without authority
- You cannot command people without reason/ or a justifiable purpose
- You cannot command people if you don’t know their culture and language
- Daily prioritising of tasks requires actions to be performed and resources likewise – people can be delegated /commanded to perform these functions.
- Explaining and communicating tasks, as well as assigning duties, and setting targets, can be done through instruction sets, plans – commands. These then have to be interpreted, and executed by the supervisor, or his delegated.
- Commanding can create conflict at the point where a perceived incompatibility of goals become apparent; where people think they are being taken advantage of, bullied, underlying festering issues, guilt, bias, miscommunication etc… all that creates friction.
- Commanding requires trust, knowledge and mutual respect, in order to except the dynamics of command.
- Command succumbs at the point where we find a difference of; perception, values, belief, conflict of interest, and divergent views on how to best address a situation.
- Command is a continuum of a management style via the understanding of the necessity for rapid and immediate intervention at a certain level; it cannot be switched off and on as required.
- You either have the ability to be in command or not.
- Groups are commanded from within – not from outside their ranks.
- People only let themselves be commanded by people that can do the job themselves.
- Conflict is an essential part of strengthening the bonds of command and establishing structure, between peers and subordinates.
- Command does not leave room for much negotiation; we take a decision and stick with it…
- However this can only be done with trained and skilled people.
- 3. Measuring people;
Measure asks; What has been done today, how much of it, what should be done tomorrow, and is it what was expected, did we reach target? That’s the question at supervisory level that needs to be asked daily in order to be measuring?
You won’t ever know if you are performing or not if you have no measure to go by. Only when there is a set measure, a target, criteria, or benchmark, will you know by how much you have reached of your respective targets, or not. Then it’s the job of the supervisor to manage, and Find the deficit, and identify the stumbling blocks, or the obstacles to performance, and prepare for the required intervention in order to reach the targets.
The measures you use to measure people with, becomes a yard stick for every performance comparison, discipline, and moral. You need to be transparent and consistent, when measuring performance. Then there is also the issue of fairness, bias, and competition that will come into play. Beware; where people compete at the individual levels, they will try and manipulate, circumvent and control the process, they will even find the gaps, and shortfalls, and go to the extent of committing fraud.
This system must also be the same system that will be the guideline for promotion, reward, bonus, and incentives, as well as corrective basis. Never separate the scope/ the system, that you evaluate performance with, and also discipline, promote, and reward people with, must be consistent and the same measure and fair, as well as accurate, we keep people accountable for their production with one system for all.
Supervisors must never make promises that they have no power or authority to carry out.
Information and information management is key to measuring;
- You cannot plan without information
- Problems are solved with information
- Decisions are made based on information
- Resources are deployed based on information
- Information on the other hand is verified and tested, then validated data…
- Data is raw information that needs to be interpreted and filtered to make it understandable to its audience…then it informs, and becomes informative or information.
- You cannot manage that which you cannot measure (or understand).
- Information is the key to communication of essential facts.
- Facts become knowledge if and when we can use it.
- Knowledge is the things we know and understand.
- Once organised we can manage information to our requirement
- That becomes management information
- The likes of reports, statistics, systems, emails, spread sheets, pictures, etc…
- Management information is timely, accurate, and relevant to a situation
Addressing the Hard and Soft Components that become Leadership Quality.
- A. Mastering the hard skills; By Addressing Problem Solving; Planning and Decision-making.
- 1. Problem solving;
Much of what managers and superiors do daily is solving problems, through making numerous decisions. Supervisors need to share this burden.
When we start with problem-solving, planning, and decision making as essential skills to develop from the ground up, evolving on its theory and practice, testing our assumptions, and gauging our proficiency at the micro scale/ level, we will then end up planning proficiently and effectively at the macro scale, and with confidence and proficiency as we progress in years and levels through the organisation. Only by growing skills as we progress, can we expect to end up with a core that plans, and plans well. That will have the confidence to take decisions and solve problems. This way they learn what works and what doesn’t at the grass-roots level already. Where we can afford mistakes and errors to be made. Later on it becomes more costly and wider in application, as people get into more senior positions.
It All becomes very-very useful as a (well-developed) skill when going forward into senior management and beyond. We require models that are universal in application throughout the organisation. I.E.
The Six – Step Problem Solving Model;
- Identify the problem
- Identify possible solutions
- Select the best solution
- Implement the solution
- Evaluate the effectiveness
- Revise as required
- The collective value, of brainstorming, where no idea is disregarded
- To evaluate solutions along the immediate, short, medium and long term scope
- To check these options against the feasibility of the contemplated solution against the availability and cost-effectiveness of resources
- To take time and resource constraints into consideration; ask the right questions; Who, What, Where, When, and how, as well as how much?
- Cost involved, do the means justify the ends?
- What are the associated risks involved with each solution?
- Get consensus on the plan contemplated, and buy in
- Plan the plan – and make it strategic, link it with systems, policy, and SOP etc
- Implementation procedures – legal and other requirements; assign, responsibility and accountability of the plan to specific people
- Then communicate and share the plan and the requirements and specifics
- Monitor the implementation; schedule and benchmark. Get the feedback…evaluate, correct, and asses.
- Make comparison; before and after; was the plan realistic, was the expectations reasonable? Revise as required…
- 2. Decision making;
Decision making skills; starts with people being focused on reaching objectives.
Goals and objectives create for us a narrow focus, the narrower the focus, the better the impact.
For this to happen we need to teach our people the value of prioritisation, as discussed previously. This the thighs in with creating focus. Then comes the part where we have to start making decisions.
It takes courage and ability, to make tough decisions; people need to develop the strength of character to make the hard decisions. The thing with decisions is this; it must be made with the best information available at the time. Then we have to do it in good faith, and move on that decision. “Paralyses by analysis”, should be overcome, the decision not to make a decision is the worst decision one can make… indecisiveness creates stagnation, and bottlenecks, as well as distrust. This is all due to a lack of knowledge and competence.
Self-development is paramount to overcoming stagnation and creating understanding of how and why we need to make decisions, stop being afraid, then being afraid of the unknown, is overcome by gaining knowledge and experience. The absence of policy and procedures, as well as SOP’s also become a stumbling block to decision making, and being conversant with all this criteria creates competence. Furthermore, the big keys to locking up decision making. It all starts with the absence of management systems, and tools, as well as job knowledge, not forgetting political interference, and the total absence of leadership support and backing. Then circumventing of command and control structures, where juniors can bypass the supervisor and go straight for the head, to get a decision.
These are things that supervisors cannot change. They can only live with it and get on with what is available. (Sad). It does however reflect directly on the calibre of senior management you are dealing with, and levels of trust that go around with the highest office. There is just no answer to it…but to change jobs.
Things that also complicate decision making; like friends that stick with you, after you get promoted and they don’t. Cut the umbilical cord now. He who walks alone, walk further faster on the management path to the top, its lonely. You cannot drag along people kicking in d screaming. They will drag you down eventually. You cannot do your job where friends come under fire.
You cannot hide deficiency forever; it reflects indecision and lack of action. Again you have the authority and power to act, you are expected/ compelled to take action. Your people will lose faith and trust and it will impact on your credibility, if you remain indecisive and lacking in action. You don’t need consensus on all issues either; you can command and control people as a true leader need should do from time to time.
Beware, when making organisational decisions where it concerns friends and family, they are always bad decisions. Beware, where it concerns friends and family, and getting them in or promoted…it undermines your authority, and credibility. That impacts directly on mutual trust.
Favouritism/ bias also filter; never make decisions motivated by race, gender, or culture, when it is not required.
- 3. Planning;
Planning becomes indispensable at the point where things become complicated.
If you fail to plan, then your plan is already failing you…
The plan identifies the problem, looks at the solutions, and then at the cost and derivatives. Then once adopted, or approved, then we will link it to the action plan. When you combine the two, you get an operational plan.
Planning at supervisory level is equivalent to their level of control span, and accountability as well as level of responsibility and scope. Only proportionate to the goals and objectives they have to achieve.
Planning at this level, should be straight forward, mostly in a series of steps, to achieve a specific aim, or purpose. The detail of the plan is in the timelines, and deadlines, as well as the expected outcome.
This becomes the action plan; a plan coupled to time lines and deliverables; the stuff that should happen and the results we should get if we do it right.
Large action plans are time phased; broken up into phases, sections, coupled to time, preceding each other.
The ultimate purpose of an action plan is to connect the strategic pan of the organisation to the people. It’s a detailed description of the steps used to implement a part of the strategic plan. Supervisors deal with operational duties, therefore operational plans need to be drawn up at this level.
The hierarchy of plans;
i. Grand Strategy
ii. Strategic plan
iii. Departmental/ divisional plan
iv. Operational plan
v. Action plan
Supervisors will deal with planning pertaining to the following steps;
- Step 1: Identify the problem, event, project or situation. Why do you need a plan?
- Step 2: Determine the scope of the problem. How big; how long in duration? Gather information.
- Step 3: Determine the objectives. What do you want to accomplish?
- Step 4: Identify Resources. What do you need to accomplish your objectives?
- What type of equipment; how many people; what type of expertise.
- Don’t plan to take any action that is illegal or contravenes department policy or labor agreements.
- Step 2: Determine the scope of the problem. How big; how long in duration? Gather information.
- Step 3: Determine the objectives. What do you want to accomplish?
- In a tactical situation you will know immediately if things are not going well.
- Step 5: Identify any legal, policy and/or labor issues.
- Step 6: Step 1: Identify the problem, event, project or situation. Why do you need a plan?
- Step 7: Establish an evaluation system. Check to see if the objectives are being accomplished.
- Step 8: Make the necessary changes/corrections; if objectives are not being met.
Operational planning definition;
- An operational plan is one that concerns a limited scope of actions, encompasses a relatively short period of time, and may be repeated with some variations. Its purpose is to provide for the co-ordination of several persons, activities, or processes to achieve a desired outcome.
- Operational planning is also considered to be short-range and, except for one-time tactical situations, usually involves time frames of between six and twelve months.
Elements of a Good Plan
- It establishes the objective(s) and provides for the accomplishment of a specific and meaningful task(s), coupled to people responsible for this.
- It is based upon facts and valid assumptions that are made after all pertinent data has been considered, and evaluated.
- It provides for the optimal and effective use of existing resources, and any additional resources, role-players and contractors ect.
- It provides the organisational structure for this operation – the command structure.
- It provides for any needed additional resources; in a what if, plan B situation.
- It provides for decentralisation of command and control through the effective delegation of authority.
- It provides for the direct contact and co-ordination between all units involved in the planning process.
- It is simple and it reduces all elements of the plan to their simplest form.
- It is flexible: it allows for the adjustments due to changes that can occur.
- It provides controls.
- It is co-ordinated.
- B. Mastering the Soft skills; Delegation, follow up and then follow through
No man can command and control, and do all that needs to be done as a supervisor, there is just at times way too much to be done. In these instances the supervisor has the right to give some of his work load to a subordinate. This is called delegation. Where tasks need to be delegated; we need to do some things in order for it to work;
The art of delegation;
- Delegation is done downwards, to your subordinates, never up
- You can only delegate responsibility never accountability
- Delegation needs to be backed up by authority
- It needs to come with clear instructions/directions, and the person must have the capacity to do it
- It needs to come with standards; this is how we want it done / guidelines
- Supply support for the project
- Identify the resources available
- Make no assumptions – clarify, quantify and identify…
- Encourage questions
- There must be a monitoring process built in to check, and gauge the progress, and or final product.
The rules of delegation;
- You must be in a position to delegate, you must have the authority – be a supervisor or higher – or appointed in a position that has responsibility.
- The best person to give the job to must have the capacity to perform the task, if that person does not have the time, skill, ability, or time, then you have not delegated effectively. This is also referred to as “passing the buck”.
- You cannot delegate work, that is specifically delegated to you, or that is your sole responsibility. You cannot delegate problems, low rates of performance, morale problems, and confidential tasks.
- Follow up and follow through; with checks, reports, statistics, inspections, and reviews.
Then we have the skill “follow up” and “follow through”.
They say that feedback is the breakfast of champions, this is because, breakfast is served early in the day, start getting feedback as soon as you come on the job. People don’t” respect what you expect, they respect what you inspect”.
Follow up – refers to the inspection of every aspect of the job. As a supervisor it’s your responsibility to check conformity, making sure that everyone is towing the line, doing what they are supposed to do. Where there is moral problems, then it’s because the supervisor is hands off. When you are “Out of sight you are out of mind”. Supervisors need to be stepping on toes, smelling breaths, and kicking asses. That’s how close they have to work with their teams.
Follow through – is a term we use to close the deal. Make sure that tasks were finalised, as what was expected, and not just left. Sign off on inspections, on duty, the jobs not done until the paperwork is done and signed off.
- Mastering the profession of supervisory management
The need to exercise and have unity of effort; to have authority and command as a supervisor
Supervisors must be supported in that they must not be bypassed, it undermines their authority. If the next level, and even above is open to bypassing command (supervisors) levels. Then you make them irrelevant, when they are compromised they seize to perform, and then you wonder why they stop making decisions, and fail to take control.
The aspect of functional supervision also needs to be explained to supervisors. Where staff from outside the division, comes into their department, or division, then they have command over them, because they are responsible for what happens here, with their own staff and other staff, their actions, and their supervision. You cannot turn around and say it was not your staff that broke the copier machine when it’s under your control…then command whoever comes into your environment immediately.
Loyalty; you don’t have discretion when you get given a “command” / instruction by a supervisor, this needs to be entrenched into the organisational culture as being loyal to the organisation. It must be a shall / not a can do issue when we get instructions from senior people. Rather “Comply now, and then complain later”. That’s loyalty. Supervisors have legitimate power. Respect that. It is a commonly held belief that the first line supervisor will make or break an organisation…and this is true. Where supervisors seize to do what they are supposed to do, catastrophic failure will ensue…
Characteristics influencing supervisors
Be selective when selecting supervisors, the mere fact that a person selected to be a supervisor that has been a competent individual producer, is no guarantee that he/she will become a successful leader. As a supervisor, he/she may be unable to manage people or maintain effective subordinate relationships or even manage systems and administrative tasks. He or she might not be able to delegate when necessary, or even co-ordinate subordinate activities, or follow-up on their performance and then take appropriate remedial action. The total inability to take charge and be forceful translates into them failing as supervisors…
There might also be a conflict of interest, when promoted, whereby a newly appointed supervisor for instance is balancing his roles, both as colleague and supervisor. The First Line supervisor then becomes someone caught between management and the non-supervisory personnel. Then they find themselves performing a managerial role saddled with old affiliations, relationships and debts to fellow employees, this then compromises there position. Dr. Peter’s research concluded that there are times when we promote people from their level of excellence to a level of incompetence.
Supervisors have to take responsibility for the full function of their post; ultimately, they are accountable for all aspects of their areas of responsibility, including the performance targets, administration, and on-duty conduct of the individual employees under their supervision. Aiming for quality performance, accountability, command, control, measuring and making preparations should become their mainstay- their life blood. This is called discipline.
Self-discipline is having true self-control, the ability to be in control of oneself and take responsibility for one’s actions. Then you get functional discipline; where people are productive without being told to do their work, and do it well – motivated. Only if and when personal discipline (where people come to work on time, with all their kit, and positive) and supervisory discipline (where supervisors are performing all their functions) are in check, will functional discipline emerge. Discipline is paramount to unity of effort; therefor it has to be enforced, with progressive discipline. It involves an evaluation of the human factor which, when combined with proper training, motivation and recognition of the individual and group effort, results in self-discipline. It involves a lot of divergent training – re-training, and then some more training – especially in perishable skills – and a lot of counseling. Information being “downloaded” – into the information-generation.
- If supervisors aren’t trained well, and conversant in policy, procedure, laws, and systems, then they can’t perform their basic function of passing on knowledge, and training others in same, especially in perishable skills. Then they start cutting corners, and making up things as they go along. Then you find a lot of precedents, set. That normally is not sound or either procedural in application. Just haphazard; lesser fair manner. Supervisors must have technical skills, and knowledge, as well as practical skills necessary, all well-rehearsed in order to perform their duties peculiar to his / her specific assignments. They need to know and communicate the “rules of engagement”. Continuous self-improvement is a way out of these pitfalls, where employers don’t seem to think it necessary or essential to train people. Supervisors are always responsible for their own work and that of their subordinates to insure the adoption and practice of the best principles and procedures to meet current, unusual, and changing conditions. Without this knowledge, we don’t see “responsiveness”, where supervisors jump after being issued instructions, and achieve results fast and effective. It does not stop with knowledge, in theory form; it extends to practical issues as well.
Entrenching management knowledge; of how to manage people by objectives at supervisor level.
To manage with intent, is to manage well. Then we become objective. Then we use objectives. Objectives are also ideas, notions, things that work great/ best for supervisors in managing people fairly and effectively;
- MBWA (management by wandering around). You have to be visible to be effective.
- Inspections: Employees do not always respect what you expect but they will respect what you inspect.
- Merely finding fault is not inspecting. Therefore, the supervisor’s responsibility does not end with discovering a deficiency; it includes taking positive measures towards correct the problem.
1) Enforcing discipline; by having performance evaluation meetings, following up on instructions, duty assignments, inspections, attendance register, spot checks, quality evaluations, following up on late coming, sick leave, dress code, extended tea, and lunch breaks… enforcing discipline remains the responsibility of the supervisor, its main purpose, that makes it imperative, is that disciplinary policy and procedures are designed to maintain the confidence of the public. Furthermore, to ensure positive confirmative functional discipline to maintain performance levels. Ensuring a good functional working environment.
- Awareness test; pay attention to required detail, you should know, or should have known – what happens with your people, where they are, what they are busy with etc…. be aware of what is happening in your “theatre of operation”.
- Conduct with Integrity – “An unimpaired condition (SOUNDNESS): firm adherence to a code of moral values (being INCORRUPTABLE) and uncompromising on ethics and principles. Succumbing to even minor temptation can be the genesis of a malignancy which may ultimately destroy an individual’s effectiveness and may contribute to the corruption of countless others. Model high levels of integrity. Be a role model.
- Report writing; reporting is part and parcel of management, and what has transpired; production, special events, defects, and shortcomings, becoming a form of feedback to the chain of command. Reports; in any form, either written, verbal, must be of high quality; must be thorough and complete, it should all come to a logical conclusion, and be open to scrutiny and required changes. All reports require feedback, before it could be channelled further for action, or comments.
- Action management; Mange situations as they unfold; it is the main task of a supervisor to supervise; however, to supervise events is a task of it as well; it also includes managing situations as they come to the fold; personnel relationships in the office, emergency’s, pay office, new deadlines, leave and pay disputes, or disasters may not be ignored ever, or left to stand over till later, it is all part and parcel of action management. Do it right the first time…
- CYA; Cover Your Ass; refers to protecting your integrity and accountability. Make sure you have minutes of meetings, signed copies by all your staff of policy and procedures that they received copies of, attendance registers in place; of training etc. this is the only way you will be able to prove that you did what was expected, in terms of training and informing people of their responsibility. Of the company policy and procedures, as well as directives that need to be channelled into your department.
- Analyse performance; do regular/ daily/weekly appraisals of your people; on both conduct, and production. Evaluate sick leave, and insubordination, complaints against the person, against attitude and capabilities. Reward good, and correct bad performers. Be consistent.
- Be appropriate; give guidance where it’s needed, or required. Be critical and be fair…
- Achieve departmental objectives, by following these objectives…
Other areas of Supervisory Responsibility
Yes, responsibility and the enforcement of it, starts at supervisory level already.
Key areas of responsibility for supervisors;
1) Managing of equipment/ assets; with registers, service and repairs dates.
a) To ensure the equipment is not missing
b) To ensure the equipment is in good working order
c) To minimize damage, loss or theft of employer property
2) Environmental work place safety; make sure that the office/ work place is safe and clean.
a) Fire prevention equipment is up to date and serviced
b) Offices are cleaned and maintained effectively.
c) Electrical equipment is safe and secure.
d) Safety and security equipment, alarms are armed; make sure personnel are safe inside their work place, and have the required safety equipment, if and when required.
e) People are trained in CPR, with a medical aid box present.
3) Preparedness; for supervisors, includes more aspects than just the obvious.
a) As supervisors. We need to make sure that our people all have the required capability, and capacity – for all the functions of the job – so that they become competent. You are deemed competent when you have Competence. Competence is a standardised requirement for an individual to properly perform a specific job. More generally, competence is the state or quality of being adequately or well qualified, having the ability to perform a specific role. By putting the critical core components of training and capacitating off for later, is the same as writing it off. Take decisions, on core competency issues, and have them addressed ASAP. The worst decision ever, is the ones we never made, when we should have… rather take a decision now and get some form of action going.
The only way to become ready to be tested as a supervisor; is to start doing something…anything that will assist in building capacity, and competency, that will leave you better off. Remember, all the jobs are always yours, your job, it’s always the job of the supervisor, and not the organisation, to make sure their people get trained, and trained well.
With being a supervisor come very high expectations, and then leadership gets taxed/ tested. Therefore your followers have the right to criticise you, even question you, and at times challenge you. Be prepared to answer, respond, and give feedback, and do it with confidence.
A few aspects that undermine preparedness; starts with small issues, favouritism and one-sidedness; it corrupts and compromises your moral authority. Moral authority refers to integrity, standards, virtues, morals, and values we hold in high regard as a culture, or society. If you don’t play by these rules, you are corrupt in moral character. Then you can’t ask or persuade people, you have to compel them. Now onto the bigger issues affecting preparedness; if you are corrupt, lazy, incompetent, and unethical. Then you won’t have any power left after some time to motivate people with; these aspects corrode everything in its proximity. It keeps people from staying honest and faithful. What flows from the top, will surface at the bottom. We tend to follow the examples of our superiors, our parents; our leaders are our measure of truth. Then we also see the likes of unethical conduct, and bad behaviour and ill-discipline, and then coercive power is the only way left to supervise. Then you can’t demand respect either. You have to earn respect remember, through sacrifice and good service, if you don’t do your job well, if you are not prepared, positive, willing and able. Then you will not be respected. If you lose respect, you lose credibility, and authority. When you find yourself here, then, you have lost then plot. Then you were not prepared to put in the time and effort, and sacrifice to be a leader and manager, and ultimately becoming a real supervisor.
Supervisory integrity’s and elements that directly cause its decline;
- 1. Assumption is the first element of integral decline
The one thing that can make or break any person and even organisation is assumption. Assumption is only based on guess work. It’s the best guess we have made when we don’t quite know what we are doing, then we assume things. In the absence of any proper theory, experience, references or information, then we may assume, otherwise not. However when we assume way too much we make an “ass-u-me” – ass out of you and me. Leaders and supervisors have fallen down face first, on relying too heavily on assumption only, when and where facts and information is readily available – then it becomes a fatal error if we rely only on assumption, to make major decisions with.
- 2. Sexual harassment is the second element of integral decline
First off, it can be between any of the sexes and even same sex people.
Sexual harassment is defined as “any repeated and/or unwanted sexual attention or
advancement that a recipient finds objectionable or offensive in the working situation”.
- It extends to sexual favours for promotion, or favour, or a benefit from having a personal relationship, between junior and senior management. The “Quid pro quo” rule – you scratch my back I will scratch yours, where you look after each other’s needs.
- Sexual harassment can be verbal, non-verbal or physical and include, but is not limited to the following:
- Unwanted sexual comments, innuendoes, jokes or suggestions
- Unwanted and unnecessary touching, brushing against, patting or pinching or physical contact.
- Suggesting, requesting or demanding sexual favours of any nature as a condition of employment, continued employment or privileges.
- Displaying pictures or objects depicting nudity, scantily clad or sexual activity in any of the department complexes, satellite stations or vehicles.
No employee should be subjected to unsolicited and unwelcome sexual overtures, conduct or any form of sexual harassment…
- 3. Undermining integrity is the third element of integral decline
- Character assassination, deformation of character, lies, and undermining authority is not beyond some supervisors and their subordinates, this impact on integrity. People may also become jealous of their subordinates/ supervisors, or want to show then whose boss. Then these games happen, and transcend the one-on-one relationship, and can affect the whole department, and both effect work conditions and the cohesion of efforts in departments. If this becomes practice. Then people with damaged self-esteems act like wounded rabid animals in instances like this, and do things outside the norm. This could become dangerous on many levels, and needs to be addressed immediately, and effectively, to root it out completely.
- 4. Bias and or racism is the fourth element of integral decline
- There is no perfect system to weed these aspects out for good; it may not even be directly attributed to the issues at hand. It may be disgruntled state of affairs that lead to bias, or racism. Nevertheless, allegations, rumours are all it takes to tarnish ones reputation for ever. Be wary!
There may be much more aspects we should or could incorporate into this synopsis of what is required of the new look first line supervisors profile, and what they may need to know, to do, and be trained in to survive the challenges of this millennium. Nevertheless, I am sure that these are the most prevalent and cardinal of the entire range of make or break factors, in grooming supervisors.
Get my book on strategic management and learn more about planning, and the rest; STRATEGIC Management, the radical revolutionary strategic management matrix for predators by REINIER GEEL. It is available worldwide; in E-book and print at a very low price… just Google it and find your nearest book store.