Are you new to a supervisor, team lead, or even manager role? Do you feel like you’ve been given little to no training or time to adjust? Are you experiencing some anxiety or sleepless nights because you are finding yourself in challenging situations or needing to have conversations where you have no idea what to say? If so, you are definitely riding the struggle bus.
You are not alone. There are plenty of passengers right along with you. As I’ve interacted with thousands of new supervisors in the course of my career as a leadership and communication skills expert, I’ve discovered many are promoted into a leadership or supervisory role because they were exceptionally good at their previous job and were given little to no training on how to actually supervise or lead. It’s as if somehow people are supposed to know innately how to motivate, how to have crucial conversations, and how to manage difficult people (just to name a few).
I’ve also discovered that the difference between those who succeed and those who struggle as first-time supervisors is primarily a matter of mindset. Here are 3 crucial “mindsets” to adopt to get you off the struggle bus and onto the path of success.
Leaders are Learners
Successful people, in any area, are committed to lifelong learning. They adopt the mindset that not everything has to be learned in the “schools of hard knocks” and they commit to shortening their learning curve in any endeavor by proactively educating themselves. This is especially true for those in a supervisory or leadership role.
Don’t know how to give effective performance feedback? Take an online course or webinar. Struggle with disciplinary conversations? Seek the guidance of an HR professional or a communication skills expert. Need a solid foundation of skills such as delegating (and not micromanaging?) Work with a coach. Read a book. Listen to podcasts. Find a mentor.
The key is to be proactive. Don’t wait for your leader to suggest a webinar, register for it yourself. Don’t wait for your training and development team to offer a leadership workshop, seek one out for yourself. No books on your bookshelf? Invest in them yourself. Take the initiative to learn and to develop your skills. However, if you have the mindset that someone else needs to offer it to you or enroll you, you lengthen the time you spend struggling.
Friendly – Not Friends
One of the most difficult things new supervisors face, especially those promoted from within, is the transition from being “one of the team” to being “leader of the team.” In some instances, there are elements of jealousy present or frustration that you were promoted and they were not. In some instances, close friendships are present which can make things complicated.
I’m a big advocate of having a “friendly not friends” relationship with those you work with. What do I mean by that? I mean, create boundaries of things you will and will not talk about or do. By all means, be friendly. Ask how people are doing. Comment on exciting things that are happening in their lives. Be a good and supportive listener and even socialize on occasion. However, be mindful that being too personal will make it more difficult for you to have disciplinary conversations or to give negative feedback. It can make things confusing for others and difficult for you. Each leader must decide what their version of “friendly not friends” is. For example, I know one very successful leader who let her team know when she was in the hospital but asked them not to visit. That was a boundary that made sense to her. You can decide what boundaries work for you. However, having them is crucial.
What if you are already BFFs with someone you now supervise? You may opt to adopt a policy to keep “work at work” or even clarify when you “have your leadership hat on.” This can help set situational boundaries and make supervising someone who is already a good friend easier.
The struggle bus is filled with leaders who second guess their decisions and worry that they are hurting someone’s feelings. It is filled with those who want everyone to like them or be their friend. Adopting a “friendly not friends” mindset can help get you on the path to success. And speaking of wanting to be liked, here is the third mindset.
Not Everyone Will Like You – And That’s OK
Without a doubt, this is one of the most difficult mindsets. At least it was for me. Many years ago, before I began my career as a professional speaker, author, and executive advisor, I was promoted into a position where I was supervising former peers (66 of them to be exact). And, within a few months, it was very clear. Not everyone liked me. And that was hard. It’s not like they actively disliked me (at least not that I was aware of). However, because I was sometimes the bearer of bad news like a change in company policy, or I needed to deny requests for things like time off on occasion, I was not always popular or liked at that moment. And frankly, that was hard. I like people. I want people to like me.
In a leadership role, that is not always possible. So, I decided that I needed to change my internal standard of success. Success in my leadership role wasn’t going to be based upon if everyone liked me or upon making everyone happy. I decided that respect was a better yardstick by which to measure success. Both respect of those I supervised, my peers, my leadership, and of course my self-respect.
That meant that I did my best to make reasonable decisions; to deliver bad news with tact and finesse; to engage in difficult (disciplinary) conversations with respect and empathy, and to uphold company policies and standards consistently. People didn’t always like me in the moment. However, if I could lay my head on my pillow at night knowing I had done my best, my self-respect was intact, and I could handle knowing not everyone liked me all the time.
Adopting this mindset was a game-changer for me and can be for you.
Being a first-time supervisor is not easy. The struggle is indeed real. Adopting these 3 mindsets will, however, dramatically decrease the sleepless nights, the stress, the anxiety, the overwhelm… the time on the struggle bus, and get you on the path to success.