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Monday, January 23, 2012

When supervisors fail their teams

When Jonathan took up his new position as the Projects Coordinator, he was sure God had finally smiled at him. It had been long in coming as he had witnessed staff with far less experience and training take up better positions in the company while he continued to mark time. Now that he had been considered for a more ‘responsible’ position, excitement made him walk over the moon.
However, one year into his task, the persons he supervises have raised numerous complaints to the senior management accusing him of failing them in their achievement of results. This, they claim, has negatively affected their chances of progressing and have been unable to develop a case for a salary increase due to their invisible results. But what could be some of the reasons that make supervisors fail their own teams? I sought to explore a few possibilities.

Ill preparedness: Simple sampling of many supervisors at the workplace today indicates that most of them have been given up positions that expect them to supervise other staff yet with little or no preparation. It is common practice to find institutions promote staff on day one and expect them to be aware of what is expected of them especially with regard to people management as supervisors. Supervision is a skill that ought to be learned.

Poor communication: Communication is at the heart of supervision. Facilitating a group or team to work together to deliver results requires clear communication of the results expected and the path the team should pursue to achieve the goals. In most cases, supervisors are directed by senior management and the board of directors on what needs to be pursued by staff and are expected to effectively communicate it to their teams. Depending on how the information is communicated, the teams could either buy in or reject the suggested strategies.

Weak mentorship: It is expected that supervisors should serve as mentors to the persons they supervise. As a supervisor, it is hoped that you have skills, experience and vision to transfer to the persons you supervise to enable them achieve their objectives. This calls for a structured strategy to identify what capacity development issues are within your team and develop a mechanism of supporting the supervised both individually and collectively to achieve the goals. 

Finally, poor representation of staff concerns. By default, it is expected that supervisors should serve as representatives of the persons they supervise especially on instances when there are challenges at the workplace. The supervised expect their supervisors to present their concerns and interests so that all decisions being made in the company consider their concerns. Great supervisors seek to maintain a positive bond with their teams so that should there be concerns, staff feel free to raise them with their supervisors. Aloof supervisors do harm untold to the welfare of their juniors.

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