Role Change

Change AheadIs being a supervisor or team leader different than being a worker or team member? Yes! Is there a big difference? Yes! What are the major differences?
First, as a first-line supervisor and now a person in the “middle”, you now have more and different needs to meet. Second, the skills and knowledge that served you well as a worker or team member most likely will require expansion as you learn and then practice the art and science of “supervision.” Third, you are likely to face and need to overcome various obstacles in making the transition from worker to first-line supervisor.

One way to clarify your new role is to ask these questions to the different people you work for and with:
Questions for Boss
“What are the top five to six expectations you have of me as a supervisor? What work tasks do you want me to give priority attention to and why are these important to you?”
Questions for Other Successful Supervisors
“What do you spend your time doing that has led to you being seen as a good boss and successful? What things do you avoid doing that would detract from your success?”
Questions for Your Staff
“What tasks do you feel I should focus on to insure you can be a great worker and a star at work? What things would turn you off if I behaved that way as your supervisor?”
Questions for Your Good Customers
“What things do I need to do to insure we are meeting your needs as our customer? Is there anything I should start doing or stop doing?”

Same or Change?The responses you receive should provide you with clarity on what will be expected from you in your role as a supervisor.
If we could suggest just three things you should focus upon that will help you be successful in the role of first-line supervisor, they are:


  1. Insure you and your team generate the highest quality work possible.
  1. Make certain each of your team members feel valued and important.
  1. Insure your customers feel you and your team always will go the extra mile.
We understand you will also check your job description and the criteria set forth in the performance appraisal system for supervisors to see what they say about roles, responsibilities and expectations. However, typically, this information is general, sometimes vague or provides a long list of work tasks or performance standards that may not represent the real world for a supervisor. Talk to the people suggested and you will get a clearer picture of what you need to concentrate upon to be successful in your new role.
Finally, you need to ask yourself if you want to be a great first-line supervisor. If your answer is a resounding yes, then it would be helpful for you to know what one acts and feels like. Our model for a great first-line supervisor is based on research, our own experiences as a supervisor and being supervised and what we have been told in the many training events conducted by people transitioning to supervisor and learning their craft.

Our great first-line supervisor has six essential characteristics or clusters of behavior. They are:


  1. They successfully meet the important needs of the organization for which they work; the team members they direct; and the customers they serve.Stop Managing & Lead
  2. They are noted for their high ethical behavior and work ethic.
  3. They show signs of developing or already have key leadership talents, particularly a clear vision of where they want to take their team, a willingness to empower team members to solve problems and make decisions, and almost relentless persistence in moving toward their vision.
  4. They strongly believe in and practice the Golden Rule. Simply put, they treat people the way most of us desire to be treated.
  5. They are committed to life-long learning and are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves, team members and the work of the team.
  6. People trust them.


If you want to be a great first-line supervisor, here is a model to which you can aspire. It is readily apparent that the standards for being a great first-line supervisor are high. But with hard work and commitment, you can be this person in your world of work. Go for it!

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