ISSUE 23 ISSN 1712-468
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“An individual without information can't take responsibility.
An individual with information can't help but take responsibility.”

Jan Carlzon, Former CEO, SAS Group of Companies

Remember your first supervisory job? I still remember mine and some of those memories are not pretty. I had been hired as the operations manager for Canada’s largest private trucking company. I had minimal trucking experience and barely knew the difference between a brake pot and a tea pot! Nor had I ever had to deal with getting a union to cooperate with the team. Now I had all of that—and more besides.

Too few people realize why the supervisor's job is complex and difficult.

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When a new machine is installed in a department, a handbook comes with it! There even may be a technician specially qualified in the way that particular piece of machinery works, directions on how to keep it in good operating order, and what to do when it breaks down.

Supervisors have new people arriving in their department all the time, but for some reason, those individuals don’t come with a handbook! 

  • How do we keep the newbies in top shape?
  • How long is the warranty on new employees?
  • What will you do if they fail?

Yes, I understand that management wants output and quality. But output and quality always require the loyalty and cooperation of people—in addition to the work machines can do.

What can supervisors do to improve loyalty and cooperation?

Employees tend to judge the whole organization in terms of the treatment they receive from their immediate boss. When 95% of employee turnover is the result of “not getting along” with the supervisor, the pressure is squarely on that relationship.

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Today, thousands of people in supervisory positions were operators just a short time ago. And in the coming months and years, thousands more men and women will assume supervisory jobs—as aging Boomers move into retirement or, as is frequently happening, semi-retirement.

Some supervisors have experience; some do not. But regardless of their history, they must quickly learn to achieve goals through their staff. They must recognize they can get their jobs done only through the cooperation of the people whose work they direct.

Failure to do so will not only hurt the enterprise, it will jeopardize that newly minted supervisor.

Complicating the new supervisor’s job of obtaining cooperation are people who know more about the technical aspects of the job than the supervisor—workers who have many more years of service! Trust me. I have felt that challenge!

I was the youngest person ever to be promoted to a terminal manager’s position. When I arrived at the terminal, I had been with the company only 4 years. The office manager had been there 20; the union lead hands 23 and 24. The terminal manager I was replacing had been with the company almost 30 years. It made for some interesting first days, but in my 8 years of management in that terminal—a union environment, we had minimal grievances, we never had a strike, and only once did we end up in arbitration.

We were successful. All the while, other trucking companies were closing their doors.

Every great endeavor has great leaders at all levels. Being a good supervisor means the people in your department do what you want done, when it should be done, and the way you want it done.

But most important, they do it because they want to do it.

CRG has a full complement of tools to help you succeed as a leader. If you are serious about leading others, you need to consider attending the next CRG Assessment Systems Certification. Discover the secrets of true leadership success. To learn more, click here.

Yours truly,

Neal Diamond

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