Supervisors: The vulnerable leaders

Training supervisors at Afrimat

Training supervisors at Afrimat

It is always a privilege to help others become more effective in what they love to do.

Last week we had a group of foodies together at a Simply Communicate Supervisory Skills workshop: ‘Help! I’m a Supervisor’. Quite by chance, we had managers from Just Pies, Sagewood and Capitol Caterers, all iconic Pietermaritzburg brands.

One of the tragedies of management training is that first-line managers need more training and mentoring than anyone else, but it’s the higher levels of that management tend to get it.

Us versus them
When we take this first step from employee to manager, we face the challenges of leaving the ‘us’ of the team and becoming part of the ‘them’ of management. Nowhere else is the pressure as intense as it is here. Yesterday someone else had to motivate the team and manage performance. Today it’s us. Yesterday, someone else dealt with conflict and discipline. Today it’s us.

Technical skills versus emotional intelligence
To make matters worse, supervisors are often promoted to this level because of their technical skills. The best technician becomes the foreman; the best sales person becomes sales manager. Management skills and emotional intelligence are seldom considered, and little guidance, training or mentoring is offered.

They are vulnerable leaders. If they fail, they will either feel incompetent and become demotivated or plough on and overcompensate by becoming controlling and aggressive.

I am always excited when companies recognise the need and send supervisors and first-line managers on this and similar workshops.

Are you getting the help you need? If you are a senior manager, are you mentoring and training your managers?

What are some of the problems you have faced?
What are some of the success stories out there? Share in the comments below.


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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