Archives for February 2010


Supervision 101

While I’d like to continue to expound on management concepts, we’ll have to take a somewhat circuitous route because there is a management concept that has to be included at the TOP of all management discussions.  That concept is the enforcement of performance standards.  In management, we declare a goal, in supervision we assure that the goal is met through others – usually our team.  Declaring goals, whether the goal is the provision of a service or an acceptable profit margin, is a futile exercise unless you are A) able to measure progress towards the goals and B) able to enforce the standards of performance that will accomplish the goals.  Measuring progress towards a goal is a discussion that gets its own article.  This discussion is about enforcing standards of performance.

If you are a person who wants to be liked and you are a supervisor or manager of people – then I am sorry – but you should resign right now.  I am not stating that a supervisor is not well-liked, I am stating that being liked and pleasing people is completely incongruent with the supervisory role.  Make no mistake, supervision is a role and the more professional you make the role, the more successful a supervisor you will be.  You may be friends with your staff, but only if you are also capable of having the difficult conversations necessary to enforce performance standards.  There are a certain percentage of staff members who “get it” and need very little leadership to accomplish the mission.  This percentage is small and you should accept that fact.  The majority of your staff will need ongoing conversations, some of which will be uncomfortable and confrontational.

Confrontation is a dicey word, lots of people think that it implies screaming and getting into folk’s personal space.  That is not what confrontation is.  Confrontation is simply the presentation of facts that may be contrary to your staff member’s belief.  For example, we all behave in ways that we believe are right and correct.  If we are engaging in very negative behavior, you can bet we have an explanation with lots of justification.  If you are a supevisor it is your job to state “you’re negative behavior is not okay, I can listen, but the behavior must change, regardless of the reason for it.”  You must be willing to have that conversation if you hope to gain high performance behavior.

Most people are uncomfortable with this type of conversation and that is why there are so many mediocre business units.  Staff will do what I call “the drift”.  At one time they may have been clear about performance standards, but as the day to day business world unfolds, emotions become challenged, the job is difficult and the perspective changes.  Some business units have no idea what a performance standard is, these units will normally die a very slow and painful death, with folks complaining and bewildered to the bitter end.

Performance standards are work ethics and practices which support the goals of the organization.  Excellent customer service to support expensive equipment purchases is one such performance standard.  Selling a certain number of products each business day is a performance standard.  Being an effective supervisor means that you will facilitate your staff member’s accomplishment of the performance standard.  Staff training is an important initial component of the facilitation process, but it must be followed with staff development and that means follow through for the supervisor.


Management 101

I don’t know why I haven’t addressed this, it’s certainly what I do.  Allow me to make some initial distinctions so that as I move through this series of articles, we are on the same “page”.  First, I won’t do a Leadership article.  Leadership has been done to death and most of what I see being currently written about leadership are trite reruns of times gone by.  So we will skip that one.   I will write about supervision, that’s an important and core principle of management.  Although management can and does occur with an absence of supervising.  First, however, I will tackle management.

Management according to is: the act or manner of managing; handling, direction, or control.  Synonyms: regulation, administration; superintendence, care, charge, conduct, guidance, treatment.  So let’s start with the bare bones of definition.  The act or manner of managing – which of course is not a definition; handling, direction or control.  These three words beg the questions: what is the goal, direction towards, what do we wish to control?  There are 10s of thousands of companies out there who cannot answer these essential priority questions.  There are 10s of thousands of managers who cannot answer these questions, and certainly, the bureaucrats have forgotten (if indeed they ever knew) what the questions is.  I don’t mean to be rough here, what I do mean to do is get your attention.  If the answer to any of these questions is money, then please, go back to working for a bank or finance company to fulfill your wildest dreams.  Even congress will give you money.

However, if there really is a reason for the work you are doing – whatever that reason is – you must go back to the roots of your purpose, find the reason and identify it in a big way.  Back in the 80s when we first started doing mission statements you could not participate unless you really felt the purpose of your work.  That work did not have to be special in any way – you could manufacture high quality clothing – you could manufacture low quality clothing – you could sell cheap groceries – you could sell expensive groceries – it truly didn’t matter, it just had to be something that you could be committed to, that you could believe in. 

The point of the mission statement was manifold, it established a beginning and a goal.  It established a living connection between the goals and the people who espoused them.  How do you go somewhere that you do not know of?  How do you control something if you do not know where you are or where you want to be?  Unfortunately, mission statements became trite PR tricks to mollify a public who had participated in the hippy generation of love and flower power.  People quit using them or believing in them a decade ago.

It is unfortunate, because with the loss of mission statements, the baby went out with the bathwater.  I say “go get the baby”!  Each and every manager must, without fail, know the current position of what they are managing, each and every manager must know, without fail, the direction in which they are going.  Each manager should know the purpose of the business and each manager must find a way to support the purpose of the business within themselves and in a fiscally responsible manner.  I need to reiterate here that if the goal is money – go back to working in a bank or finance company. 

Most work is a gift unto itself and must be honored as such.  I’m not saying that folks have the choice of their dream jobs, I am simply stating that most find themselves doing work that aligns with who they are and where they are most comfortable.  Carpenters will tell you that they like working with their hands, that they like creating, that they like building.  You cannot be a barista unless you genuinely like people and love coffee, it’s just not done – for long, at least.

So plain and simple, step 1 of effective management of any type is this: can you, personally, identify the purpose of your work and then identify and align your personal purpose with that of the organization in which you spend your days?  Step 2, do you know the current status of what you manage?  Step 3, can you identify the goals of your management?  Step 4, can you align steps 1, 2 & 3 with fiscal responsibility?

As each article in the series unfolds I will address, in depth, how to ask and how to answer these priority questions…  Please stay tuned!


Quote from John Wesley

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”

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