A couple of weeks back I wrote about one of the biggest questions that most of us face at some point in our careers – are you ready to take on the responsibilities of being a supervisor? If you haven’t done so already, you might like to spend a couple of minutes taking the survey to see where you fit on the supervisor readiness spectrum.
In looking at the results I found that there were clear divisions in the results between areas where respondents were comfortable with what would be expected of them as supervisors and areas where there was a bit of trepidation. And, as is the case with surveys, the results were not always what the Management Concepts team expected.
In this post I’m going to look at the skill sets where the respondents indicated they were comfortable. These fall broadly into the areas related to technology, interpersonal management, and information sharing.
Based on what we read in the news and from some of the stories I hear in the courses we offer at Management Concepts I will admit to being surprised at some of the areas in which people felt comfortable.
- The respondents are comfortable with the changing technology landscape and the changing information flow that this creates.
For most federal workers this means that they are adapting well to the introduction of tablets and other mobile devices into the workplace that enable agencies to comply with federal technology mandates. Late last year, Roger Baker, CIO of the Department of Veterans Affairs, announced that the VA will buy 100,000 tablets for use by clinicians and supervisors. Many other agencies are instituting telework options and supporting the use of employee-owned devices in pursuit of a more mobile and efficient work force.
2. They are comfortable with generational differences and managing the different work styles that each age group brings to the office.
There has been a lot of talk in the Washington Post, on NPR, and in other media outlets about the wave of Baby Boomer retirements that’s engulfing the US public sector and the arrival of recent college grads who are showing up at work to replace them. According to every report I’ve read, or listened to, the Millennials are looking for a completely different work environment and supervisory relationship. Their preferred work environment is said to be less hierarchical and more democratic, less 9-5 and more flexible. And, as befitting the technological environment in which they grew up, they reportedly value constant feedback.
- They are comfortable with social media and its use in the work environment.
This is a good thing, since the Millennial workers we referenced above are likely to turn down a position if it restricts their use of social media during work hours.
So what do these trends really mean for those of you who are currently supervisors and those aspiring to that role? Firstly, in being comfortable with a trend or a change, what was really indicated was that respondents were willing to work with the change and accommodate it in the work environment, rather than trying to avoid change, or work against it.
In these three areas the biggest changes and challenge I see for supervisors is that need to be comfortable with a less direct, hands-off form of supervision. With employees moving towards working remotely, working at non-standard hours, and through different media supervisors need to focus on managing a work environment that’s less under their immediate control and more diffuse. In turn they need to focus on the underlying skills that support that specific environment such as communication, building trust within their team, and building team morale and empowerment.
This kind of supervision is greatly enabled by (and actually only possible with) a clear and compelling mission focus, meaning all employees really understand why they are doing what they are doing, and how it ultimately leads to something important, meaningful and valuable. The FDIC is an example of an agency that “gets” this concept. It was also voted the best place to work in the federal government last year.
A coincidence? Probably not. The Acting Chairman, Martin Gruenberg, identified it first when talking in press reports about how and why the FDIC made the survey top spot.
To evaluate your supervisor readiness take the survey here.
With many thanks to Mark Leheney for sharing his anecdotes for this post.