5 more supervision skills

Apr 23, 2013 by

In all the time I’ve been writing this blog, the most popular post I’ve ever written (by a huge margin), was “7 Skills for Supervision Success.” That is very telling to me. It tells me I should write most posts about it because people still need and want them. The role of supervisor remains one of the most important, but under-respected and under-trained in organizations everywhere.

And its not just nonprofits; I recently spoke at the National Association of Government Communicators 2013 Communications School and the folks in my session echoed what so many of you have said to me in the past about your struggles with supervising. While I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I do want to try to provide more support to those of you who have been thrust into supervision without the training and guidance you need or want.

To that end, here are 5 more supervision skills to add to your playbook:5

  1. Allow room for innovation – When a big project or piece of a project comes up and you decide to delegate it to someone you supervise, it can be tempting to give them all sorts of instructions on what to do and how to do it. And occasionally, that’s warranted – like when it’s a financial report or some other thing that has clearly defined rules and polices surrounding it. But, in general, you probably need to back off. Even if you think you know exactly the best and most efficient way to do it, you still have to provide room for the person you supervise to innovate and try something new. They may just figure out a new and better way to do something.
  2. Provide room to learn – How does someone learn to perform a new task or build a skill? Some of us get a bit of training and are then thrust out into the field to put training into practice immediately. Some of us are shown exactly how to do something and told it replicate it exactly. Some of us are asked to do something and then are just expected to figure out with no outside assistance. As a good supervisor, your job is to ensure that those you supervise don’t suffer through any of these ‘methods’, but instead learn through a combination of the best parts of each. You should provide training, actual hands on experience and modeling for those you supervise so that they can learn the way you’ve done it and figure out their own ways of making it work.
  3. Allow room for failure – This one may be the toughest on this list because it requires you to purposely step back and allow someone you probably like and trust to go down. (And it assumes that you can see it coming, not that it snuck up on both of you.) I’m not suggesting that you allow a major, deadline-driven project to tank just so someone you supervise can grow. What I am suggesting is that allowing room for innovation includes the potential for failure and that it’s important for that to happen in order for you both to learn. If you constantly swoop in to ‘fix’ something before it’s run it’s course, the person you supervise will never learn how to fix it him or herself and may feel resentful because you’re always butting in. In other words: butt out.
  4. Encourage positivity – I’m not someone who enjoys cheesy, fake expressions of interest or forced celebrations, but I do know that sometimes you have to grit your teeth and smile – even if you don’t want to. What’s more, if you start smiling, others will too; then they’ll get used to it and might actually start internalizing the positive emotions a smile brings. By creating a little positivity and encouraging others to spread it, you’ll find that your team is generally more happy anyway which will make even dull tasks a little more fun.
  5. Celebrate! – In my 7 Skills post, I mentioned giving credit (and taking responsibility) to others on your team. Celebration is little bit broader and usually involves a few more people too. Nonprofit, mission-focused people are often so focused on the next thing to do that they forget to celebrate victories that have happened, no matter how small. But during the celebration please don’t bring out your speech about how this is only the first step in a longer slog to ultimate victory; you’ll only depress people by making them think of all the work ahead. Instead, just bask in the victory and let them do the same.

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New and Improved!

Apr 8, 2013 by

It’s taken several weeks of work, but I’m excited to finally reveal a new site design to go along with my beautiful new header, created for me by Merely Blog Design!

In addition to the new design, I’ve also updated lots of information on the site, especially in terms of career coaching work for which you can hire me. This is all part of my 2013 strategic plan to build up my coaching and career consulting work.

Check out my updated “Hire Me” page to learn more about resume or cover letter review, interview prep and other coaching and training options I offer for individuals and organizations.

You can also learn more about me, check out some of most popular posts on the blog or subscribe to receive updates when new posts are published.

As always, thanks so much to all of you that read regularly (and those that are here for the first time)! If you have any suggestions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to email or tweet me.

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Linking Things Up: Put up or shut up edition

Mar 20, 2013 by

Y’all know I love a good rant and that I also love a call to action that seeks to push people beyond their boundaries and get them thinking in different ways about the work they’ve always done. That’s why I picked each of these posts. Enjoy!

  • Overcoming the Limits of Nonprofit Advocacy on Budget and Tax Issues by Patrick Lester on The Nonprofit Quarterly’s bloglinks – For most of my career, I’ve worked on advocacy efforts; but I’ve seen many nonprofits that will not take a stand either because they’re afraid of offending people or they think they can’t. Patrick Lester calls out some major nonprofits for their short-sighted approach to advocacy and notes that not only are many of our organizations largely funded by government grants/programs, but that the budget fights on Capitol Hill we hear so much about have direct impacts on the clients we serve.
  • Career Resilience: The Four Patterns that Should Guide All Your Career Moves by Michele Martin on the Bamboo Project Blog – Michele always offers insightful posts and this one is no different. She writes about a job market that no longer keeps us held to one company, job or even job role for very long and gently but firmly encourages us start practicing the art of being resilient and bouncing back. This post is for everyone, whether you’re secure in your career or not.
  • Stop Asking and Start Listening by Thaler Pekar on the SSIR Blog – Thaler admits in this post that she doesn’t have a lot of faith in the power of listening exercises. But a unique situation shows her that even the act of asking questions during a conversation can sometimes mean you aren’t listening. And without listening, there can be very little understanding.
  • People are depending on your leadership. So show up. by Allison Jones on her blog – The title says it all. No matter how tired, scared, irritated or shy you are, people are still depending on you to show up and lead. Read the full post for Allison’s great suggestions on how you can push yourself to lead (even when you don’t want to).
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