Updated: Feb 27
Being a supervisor is stressful. In fact, Gallup has found that managers experience more stress than the people on their teams. 1 That being said, in honor of Labor Day and those who work for us, I thought I’d talk about what we, as supervisors, owe our team.
It’s easy to get lost in the day to day chaos between the work, the meetings, and the students. This typically means we put the needs of our team on the back burner. Don’t get me wrong, we all have good intentions. We want to support our team. We want to have the retreats, the one-on-ones, and development opportunities, but who has the time?
Here’s three things every supervisor needs to find the time to do:
Make Employees Needs a Priority | Most supervisors simply have too much on their plate. It’s easy to keep the focus on students and getting “things” done, but if you’re a supervisor one of your priorities must to be on supervising. Why? Because managers account for 70% of the variance on their team’s engagement level 1 Sure, but students and their engagement levels are more important…especially, since retention is so vital to our institutions, right?
Wrong. The engagement level of your team directly impacts your students’ satisfaction and profitability 2, 3 Engaged employees treat your key constituents better – students, parents, alumni, etc. Yes, most educational institutions are non-profit, but that means it's even more important to protect your resources. When employees are not engaged it directly impacts students and student engagement. Most of us are working with a backward model. It’s actually employee engagement that drives retention, not the other way around.
No matter how dedicated and passionate your team members are, if their needs are always put last, they’re going to burn out and/or leave. But even before they get to that point, their ability to serve students is going to suffer. Put more money and time into your team and the organization and students will ultimately benefit.
Clear, Timely Communication | Do your employees know what’s expected of them? What happens when they don’t? Do you get pissed and frustrated things weren’t done correctly? One important lesson learned was that most of the time my team didn’t live up to my expectations, it was my fault. Sometimes, it was because I assumed that they knew what I wanted. Other times, it was because I knew we weren’t on the same page but I was too worried about hurting someone’s feelings or creating conflict to clearly address the problem. Either way, it was my fault not theirs.
As supervisors, it’s our responsibility to clearly communicate as soon as possible about expectations or problems. Waiting to address an uncomfortable situation until an annual review is unfair. As irritating as someone or something may be to us – and believe me I’ve had my share of those situations – that team member deserves an opportunity to fix the issue and understand what any consequences might be if they don’t. It’s not nice to beat around the bush and let people dig themselves further into a hole. As Brené Brown says, “Clear is kind.”
Likewise, employees deserve to know about things that may impact them or the work they do in a timely manner. Being too busy or not wanting them to worry unnecessarily aren’t good excuses. Employees need to know you have their back, even in times of uncertainty. That means keeping them up to date on what they need to know – whether it’s good news or bad. Trust is crucial to your relationship with your team. That can only happen when there’s clear, timely communication.
Leadership | “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things,” says Peter Drucker. Employees deserve more than someone who lets them know what needs to be done and corrects them if they go off course. They need hope, vision, and inspiration. They need to know that you’ve got their backs and will advocate for them and their needs. They also need to know where they are headed.
This means making the time to do strategic planning, develop your employees both individually and as a team, and showing them where you’re headed as an organization. When supervisors spend all of their time dealing with day to day tasks and reacting to issues, it conveys a lack of control. Managers handle situations. Leaders plan for the future. It may seem counter intuitive to take the time to plan for the future when you barely have time to handle what you already have to do, but it’s vital to your team’s success to do it.
As stressful as being a supervisor is, remember that your team can actually make your life easier if you invest in them properly. They are your greatest resource and need to be protected and supported accordingly. In the short term it may mean more work on your end, but in the long term it’s worth every dollar and every minute.