Becoming a front-line leader, or supervisor, is often the biggest change in a person’s entire career. That’s because it requires an employee to make a very significant shift – going from accomplishing your own work, to accomplishing work through others. While there are multiple areas where new supervisors should focus in order to drive positive change in today’s environment, several researchers have identified five common challenges for new supervisors/leaders (Parkhill, L. Equip new managers for 5 common challenges. Human Resources Today, 2022). These challenges include:

  1.  Leading people that were once your peers: This is very common in organizations that stress “promoting from within.” Although these promotions can be very effective in reducing employee turnover and ensuring stability in the workforce, this practice can be problematic. Specifically, if the company promotes “the best individual contributor in the area/ department,” many problems often occur. This is because being a successful individual contributor and being a high-performing leader/supervisor require significantly different capabilities. Therefore, it is imperative that organizations utilize targeted and validated assessment programs in order to identify employees/individual contributors who do possess the capability to be effective leaders/supervisors. https://easiconsult.com/2021/09/11/hiring-leaders-in-uncertain-times-a-systematic-approach/

2.  Delivering constructive feedback: A new supervisor’s only experience with feedback is receiving it, not delivering it. Therefore, this can be a particularly difficult task. In our years of consultation, E.A.S.I-Consult® has found that the majority of new leaders don’t want to “offend employees,” and this leads them to avoid talking about significant problems, poor performance, etc. However, this is really a disservice to the employee, as he/she doesn’t truly understand what impact their actions may be having on their team, or the team’s performance. Providing guidelines and training on performance evaluation and feedback, along with practicing feedback delivery, is key for all supervisors. Whether this training is provided by the company’s training department, or by an external company, it is essential for ensuring that performance management is a beneficial practice and not a destructive process.

  1.  Avoiding favoritism: When a peer becomes a supervisor/leader, previous friendships can be tested. Even when the new supervisor was not previously involved with the new team, it is only natural for a person to “get along better” with certain people. It is important for the new supervisor’s leader to encourage time be spent with all of their direct reports, getting to know each one, and becoming available to all members equally. Nothing will ruin a new supervisor’s effectiveness quicker than becoming known as a leader who “has favorites” among their team.

4.  Setting up clear goals and directions: Creating standards and holding all employees/team members to the same standards is essential for becoming a productive, and sustainable team. However, as outlined above, avoiding favoritism and allowing different standards among team members is an especially difficult challenge for new supervisors/leaders.

5.  Managing time and responsibilities: This final challenge may prove to be the most difficult. That is because it demands the supervisor to delegate. And, more importantly, determining which tasks to delegate and to whom. E.A.S.I-Consult has successfully assisted many leaders to understand their role, enabling them to determine the capabilities among each of their team members. (https://easiconsult.com/2021/09/11/hiring-leaders-in-uncertain-times-a-systematic-approach/) From this information, effective delegation can occur. However, many new leaders/supervisors continue to act as individual contributors. Promptly learning that leadership means “working through others” should encourage new supervisors to learn to utilize their time more efficiently as they delegate tasks and/or activities. 

About the Author

For years, E.A.S.I.-Consult® has been helping companies identify employees who are most likely to succeed as supervisors. And, then helping these companies to establish processes that will maximize the opportunity for each of their supervisors to excel. As a leader in researching and identifying leadership capabilities – at all levels of leadership – in an effort to help organizations reach their full potential.

Joseph Gier, Ph.D. is Vice President – Consulting Services at E.A.S.I-Consult and is a licensed Psychologist. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized organizations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. Utilizing scientific approaches, E.A.S.I.-Consult provides superior results to Business – Driven by Science. Our specialties include leadership and leadership potential assessment, online employment assessment, customized skills assessment, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. To learn more about E.A.S.I.-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com, or call 800.922.EASI.