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Sep 12, 201307:27 AMLeader to Leader

with Terry Siebert

4 vital skills for new supervisors (because good workers don’t necessarily make good managers)

(page 1 of 2)

Recently, I was in a discussion with a new supervisor in one of our client companies. This was the first time she had taken on a leadership role, and she was about six months into the job. Most of her 15 reports were folks she had worked with for at least three or four years. When I asked her how things were going, she said “okay” without much conviction.

As we continued the conversation, I got the sense that she was quite frustrated. Here was a woman who had excelled at her job before taking on the leadership position. She was the expert. Unfortunately, as often happens, the person who gets the big promotion is the expert at doing “it,” not necessarily the expert at leading a group of 15 people who need to do “it.”

We got into more detail. She said she was still trying to be everybody’s friend, while at the same time being their boss. In order to accomplish this very difficult — if not impossible — task, she would let people get away with things and not really hold them as accountable as she should. As a result, her people developed poor work habits and got poor results. In one case, after being nice with one person one too many times, she finally exploded. If there were a reason for a new supervisor to be frustrated, she was in the middle of it. The only time she was really happy on the job was when she came in and did things herself.

The reason we were talking in the first place was to get her connected with one of our leadership training programs. She was primed to take another step in the learning department.

The scenario above is not new. It has been around forever and will continue to be an issue as people grow in their careers: from line worker to supervisor to manager to director to vice president and so forth. What the scenario points out is summed up in the title of a book by Marshall Goldsmith: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. In other words, the skill set that is needed to do “it” is completely different from motivating and guiding others to do “it.”

My guess is that some of you know of the great salesman who was promoted to sales manager and failed miserably. It could also be the superb machine operator, the genius software engineer, the advertising whiz, or any number of other positions where exactly the same thing happens.

If you want a promotion to a new position — especially that first one into a leadership role — to work well, be sure you are coaching this new leader in the skills that are necessary at that level. A combination of training and coaching is vital at this juncture.

What new skills are vital?


Learn quickly that your job is to build people and help them be successful. Hold them accountable to smart goals. If handled right, accountability is a very good thing. Don’t fall into the trap of doing things yourself.


Learn effective coaching and leadership techniques. Recognize individual and team success. Be there to support, not to do. Strengthen teamwork and cooperation. Motivate the team.


Sep 13, 2013 08:06 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

An area where this is really needed is in the research portion of the UW . Really skilled researchers suceed because of the knowledge and skills but when they win grants , they often find themselves running small businesses with many staff - and while carrying a teaching load and in the medical research area for Doctors a patient or even surgical practice. To my knowledge there is no training program for this part of the job which is crucial.
And when you get beyond the graduate students- managing research a research project at the UW is a major challenge. The glue holding these grants and projects together are often university employees with specific skills in running grants. They are paid less than the private sector, have minimal job security since when the grant ends they lose their jobs. In the private sector if you are part of a team that lands a million dollar contract, you get a bonus or a raise. At the university you get a 5 or 6 year pay freeze and increased benefit costs and a general climate fostered by conservatives (and frankly many businesses I have walked into stores and heard owners talk like this)that you are overpaid leeches on society. So maintaining staff in this type of a situation takes significant management skills something not necessarily built into the lead researchers education. A close friend is leaving after a succesful 22 year career on research programs at the UW. She could weather the freezes, the political abuse but not a researcher, a wonderful brilliant person who did not know how to manage. A lot of skilled workers in the research area are leaving the UW in retirement these days, and no one seems to care sicne skileld labor seems to be expendable.

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Known for his Dale Carnegie training expertise, Terry Siebert is writing to inspire leaders to reach their greatest potential. Leadership, today more than ever, may mean the difference between closing the doors or opening new markets. Every month, he'll post help with mindset, business tools and more.

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