Becoming a New Supervisor -- What are the Challenges?

During May, Hugh Alley published a book that introduces the central skills that any supervisor must master with, at least, a basic working competency: instructing, leading, and making improvements in their own area. It is entitled Becoming the Supervisor
Achieving Your Company's Mission and Building Your Team, and it presents some of the more widely used tools that a new supervisor may need. More importantly, it ties these tools and skills to solving particular problems.

I spoke with Hugh this month and asked him: “What are the common mistakes many new supervisors make?” Here is his complete response:

I’d say that there are three common mistakes among new supervisors.

First, they are not clear enough with their employees when they assign work. They’ll describe what need to be done, but they’ll skip over the details of how the work is to be done. These details are what set the orders apart, and they are where the mistakes happen. You need to go over them with your employee. And you need a conversation about how long the work will take. When that happens, both supervisor and worker can agree, and the supervisor’s stress goes down.

Second, they act without thinking through a situation when something is amiss. Usually that’s because they don’t have a structured way to approach this sort of problem. In the book, Julie, the GM, introduces Trevor, the young supervisor to the Job Relations approach, which gives a nice structured way to think about any situation. I’ve seen team leads charging across the floor to “deal with” someone stop in their tracks and reconsider when they remember the steps of the Job Relations program. It’s very powerful.

Third, they don’t pay enough attention to standard work. They don’t make sure that people are using the best way to do a job that the organization currently knows. That consistency will typically increase productivity by 10%. The best route to that is a good job breakdown, and the concepts of the Job Instruction module from Training Within Industry are very helpful here. In the book, Trevor learns how to do this, and it solves several problems. I’ve seen it reduce the time to get new staff up to speed from three months down to one month.

If new supervisors can get those three skills nailed, they’ll be much better off. From there, they can learn all the other skills. 

What is the quality of the leadership training within your organization? Do you agree with Hugh's assessment of common mistakes by new supervisors? Has your company experienced the benefits of a training within industry (TWI) program?