Supervisors: Don’t throw them in the deep end

Training Supervisors at DUCT October 2020

All promotions have their challenges, but the most difficult is the first: promotion from member of the team to team leader or supervisor. If one does not get that first one right, the later promotions are much more difficult as one continues to struggle with the basics.

The major challenge for most new leaders is that relationships change radically when one becomes a supervisor: one’s relationship with the team and one’s relationship with the organisation.

Relationships with the team

You used to be one of the team, and now you are team leader.

Yesterday, someone else worried about the team’s success and wellbeing. Today, they are your responsibility.

Yesterday, you were all buddies. Or, if you weren’t friends, you could at least ignore each other. You got on with your job, and they got on with theirs. The supervisor had to worry about relationships.

Today, you’re the supervisor.

‘Us’ versus ‘Them’

As human beings, we like to be part of the team, one of the ‘us’. One of the most difficult things for a new supervisor is to leave the ‘us’ and be treated as one of ‘them’.

Many managers struggle with this. They want to keep on being part of the team. So, they join the team (even lead the team) in cynical comments and complaints about the organisation. They fail to make tough decisions until forced to do so, then they complain about senior management making life difficult.

Relationships with the organisation

One’s relationship with the rest of the organisation also changes. Now, you have to navigate the politics of the organisation to get what your team needs. You have to negotiate with other supervisors and managers, customers and suppliers to keep your team on track.

These challenges are serious, but new supervisors are seldom warned about them.

Give your supervisors and managers the help they need
Simply Communicate to provide training and support


Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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