Carol Hacker is the former Director of Human Resources for the North American Division of a European manufacturing company, Employee Relations Manager for the Miller Brewing Company, and County Office Director for the US Department of Labor. Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, Carol has been the President and CEO of Hacker & Associates since January 1989. She specializes in teaching managers, supervisors, team leaders, HR professionals, and executives how to meet the leadership challenge. Carol is the author of over 400 published articles and 14 books including the bestseller, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions For People Who Need People. She earned her BS and MS with honors from the University of Wisconsin. She can be reached at www.carolahacker.com or 770-410-0517.
Transitioning From IT Expert to IT Supervisor: Part II
This is Part II of Carol Hacker's advice for making the transition from IT expert to IT supervisor. Read Part I here.
Learn How to Delegate
Experienced, as well as new supervisors, often struggle with the idea of “letting go.” Some supervisors are afraid to assign responsibility for fear of losing control. This could be an unfounded fear or one that has its roots in bad experiences in the past. You cannot possibly look after every detail in the area for which you are held responsible. You will have to delegate some of those details or you will find yourself overwhelmed with tasks, projects and customers. In the words of mega-retailer, J.C. Penney, “The inability to delegate properly is one of the chief reasons leaders fail.”
The critical issue is to know when, to whom and how to delegate. Delegating is about sharing authority, not just assigning tasks. If you are the type of new supervisor who believes that you are the only one capable of making decisions or completing challenging assignments, delegation will be a difficult skill for you to master. Supervisors who fail to delegate tend to do so for the following reasons:
• They don’t trust the people who report to them. They typical think: “If I want it done right, I have to do it myself.”
• They believe that if they delegate all of their work to others, that they might be seen as dispensable and lose their job. Some supervisors are afraid that their employees will do a better job than they do and consequently make them look bad.
• Many supervisors have a need to know what’s going on at all times. They think of their involvement as simply “staying on top of things.”
• Some supervisors get a lot of satisfaction from doing the work themselves and are thus unwilling to let go and delegate.
If you expect your employees to excel, you have to delegate and empower them to make decisions The benefit is not only happier employees, but also more time to do other things that you need to do. Start by delegating in these four areas.
• Simple and routine tasks
• Repetitive tasks
• Tasks that will help the employee grow
• Tasks that can best be handled by someone other than yourself
The following basic steps will help you become more confident in delegating.
• Decide what needs to be accomplished
• Set up standards for results and control
• Divide the project or task into segments that can be delegated
• Know your employees, their qualifications, expertise, strengths and weaknesses
• Decide who will be assigned what tasks
• Explain standards of expectation and limits of authority
• Let capable employees determine how to achieve the desired outcome
• Expect people to make mistakes, but don’t count mistakes as crimes
Feel Comfortable Solving Problems and Making Decisions
Supervisors solve problems of all kinds every day. It’s part of what they are paid to do along with making decisions. The two processes are related; one requires the other. Decision-making is the process of choosing between two or more alternatives. The impact of the decisions you make can be far reaching, depending on the type of decision you need to make. Some decisions are spontaneous while others require considerable planning. Following a step-by-step process will make problem solving and decision-making easier for anyone who has this important job. The six steps of the problem-solving process are:
• Be aware of the problem; know what’s going on around you. In some cases you can handle the potential problem before it occurs. State the problem in writing.
• Discuss possible solutions. Brainstorm, seek advice from others including experts, find out what’s been done in the past to correct the problem, form a task force, and don’t be afraid to get creative.
• Evaluate the possible solutions. Compare the costs and benefits of each. Of each possible solution ask yourself: “What will be the consequences if this action is taken or not taken?
• Make a decision. You will be choosing one of the possible solutions. If you have followed this step-by- step process, you should not be afraid to make a decision. Avoid delaying the decision out of fear.
• Evaluate the outcome of your decision. Was your objective met? Was the problem solved without creating more problems? Did productivity increase? Did performance improve? Was the decision a good decision?
In summary, moving from IT expert to IT supervisor is not about running a popularity contest. Your goal is to develop and refine your leadership skills. You will need them for survival. Successful supervisors are confident, direct, caring and honest. They respect people and know how to interact, delegate, empower, solve problems and make decisions. If this is your first assignment as a supervisor, you have a lot to learn. However, you can do it if you are committed and open to constructive feedback. You may not always agree with what others are telling you, but it comes with the territory. Good luck and have fun!