Tips to Help You Establish Yourself as a Leader

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1 Tips to Help You Establish Yourself as a Leader Optional Outside Class Development Opportunity Organizational Effectiveness Updated

2 2007 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. These materials were developed and produced by Organizational Effectiveness, University of Minnesota, Office of Human Resources, 200 Donhowe Building, th Ave SE Minneapolis, MN The University of Minnesota is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to its programs, facilities, and employment without regard to race, religion, color, sex, national origin, handicap, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation. This publication is available in alternative format upon request. Contact Organizational Effectiveness at or send an to

3 Table of Contents Ground Rules with Your Supervisor... 1 Getting to Know Your Employees... 3 What If You Are Managing Peers?... 4 Good Communication... 5 Don t Break Confidentiality... 6 Information is Power... 7 Setting the Tone... 8

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5 Ground Rules With Your Supervisor Creating and maintaining a good rapport with your supervisor is essential to your success. This can be accomplished through a clear set of expectations, and an open channel of communication. Your responsibility is to begin this process of expectation setting and communication as soon as possible. You need to think of your own expectations around the following three areas: Performance, Personal Style, and Communication. Answer the following questions, under the My Expectations section, and think about how you can communicate this information to your boss. My Performance What is my supervisor expecting of me in terms of performance for my college/department/unit and myself? What kinds of behaviors should I avoid? Ideally, what type of decisions do I want to make on my own, and what type of decisions do I want input on from my supervisor? Personal Style How much of who I am (family, interests, personal goals, etc.) do I want to share with my supervisor? Initially, what do I want to tell my supervisor about my leadership style? (logical, quickacting, reflective, emotional, etc.) What are my strengths that I can share with my supervisor and others? What are my developmental opportunities, and how can my supervisor help me develop them? Communication What s my style around how I keep others informed? (when, how much, verbal, written, formal, informal, etc.) Will this work here? What information do I need to know to do my job? What are my preferences around one-on-one meetings? (timing, duration, process, etc.) Tips for New Supervisors Page 1

6 Ground Rules with Your Supervisor, continued Once you have a good idea of your own expectations, set up a meeting with your supervisor. During this meeting you should communicate your own answers to the questions on page 1, and then get your boss answers to the questions below This process will help the two of you establish some ground rules or norms of conduct. Knowing what is expected of you will help you be more effective in your new role, help your supervisor give you the support you need, and support your boss in a way that works for him/her. Remember that flexibility when working together is the key to success. Performance What are you expecting of me in terms of performance for my area and myself? What kinds of behaviors should I avoid? What type of decisions do you want me to make on my own, and what type of decisions do you want to have input on? Personal Style How much of who you are (family, interests, personal goals, etc.) do you want to share with me? What can you tell me about your leadership style? (logical, quick-acting, reflective, emotional, etc.) What are your strengths, and how can I best learn from them? What are your developmental opportunities, and is there a way I can support you in them? Communication How do you like to be kept informed? (when, how much, verbal, written, formal, informal, etc.) What are your preferences around status meetings? (timing, duration, process, etc.) When someone disagrees with you, what is the best way to approach you to discuss it? Page 2 OHR/Organizational Effectiveness

7 Getting to Know Your Employees Concentrate your energies on getting to know your employees! You will accomplish more in the long run by building relationships before you focus on tasks. 1. Hold a team meeting and share your background and work related interests. Ask each employee to do the same. Utilize the team building exercises get to know each other better. 2. Spend time with each employee getting to know them professionally. 3. Show genuine concern and consideration for others; even small things, like saying please and thank you, go a long way toward building strong relationships. By extending yourself, others will tend to do the same. 4. Be willing to work as hard as you expect your employees to work. Symbolically you are communicating that you value them and the work that they do. 5. Be accessible to your employees either in regular update meetings or more informally. 6. If you are following an ineffective manager, although the area may be in shambles, you bring relief and generally will have an easier time being accepted. Do not bad mouth the previous supervisor. Employees do not want to hear you discuss a peer in an unprofessional manner, and it could damage your credibility. In addition, there may be employees who got along with this person. 7. If you replace a much cared-about and respected supervisor, you might have a hard time being accepted. Openly appreciating and valuing their contributions shows others that you are confident and ready to move the area forward without making changes for change s sake. You can never take the place of the favorite who came before. Honor the past while making yourself known. 8. Do not go in and immediately start making changes. Periodically, employees voice frustration with new people coming in from the outside and telling them what to do when they know nothing about the area. 9. If you have been promoted from the same department and/or area and now find yourself supervising former peers, extra sensitivity on your part is required. Meet with them one-on-one and acknowledge any feelings of awkwardness, commit to utilizing their expertise and to helping them with their goals, and discuss ways that your relationship may need to change. Tips for New Supervisors Page 3

8 What If You Are Managing Peers? Don't brag and don't get cocky. A promotion isn't a license to become obnoxious. You have yet to prove you are worthy of the promotion. Concentrate on that. You're not a real supervisor until you perform and produce like one. Don't start before you start. Resist the temptation to begin meddling or intervening before you officially take over. You'll have plenty of time to make your mark soon enough. Don't change your personality to fit some perceived stereotype of what you think a good supervisor is supposed to be like. You were the one hired for the job, not some newly fashioned alter ego. Don't forget where you came from or how you got to your new position. Respect old loyalties and friendships. It helps keep you grounded. Don't expect favors and don't ask for a lot of extra perks (i.e., new office furniture, redecorating). Remember, you're just the new boss, not a conquering hero. Don't think you have all the answers. You don't even know all the questions yet. Don't immediately start planning your next career move. You're not playing leap frog. Concentrate on doing the best job you can every day and the future will take care of itself. Don't make promises you can't keep. Don't try to change everything all at once. Progress doesn't have to be a lightning bolt. Page 4 OHR/Organizational Effectiveness

9 Good Communication If you remember anything about communication, remember these three things, they are critical components for communicating with your employees: 1. Information is power. If information is power, then being out-of-the-loop lacking information might leave one powerless. Your employees want you to be in the know and they want and need you to get them in the know as well. 2. You set the tone. Everything about your attitude becomes magnified as a leader. Your employees will look to you to set a positive, upbeat tone. 3. Don t break confidentiality. Doing so is your ticket to losing all credibility. Materials in this section have been adapted from Love Em or Lose Em by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans and The Manager s Toolkit by Cy Charney. Tips for New Supervisors Page 5

10 Good Communication Don t Break Confidentiality It s easy to be invigorated by the energy and empowerment that follows after sharing information with your team. There is some information however, that only managers are privy to, and as much as you d like to, you can t share with your team. Here are some guidelines to follow when information must be held in confidence: Don t share the information no matter how tempting it might be. Never use information-withholding as a power tool. If you are given proprietary or secret information, do not tell people you have it unless they ask you. If people ask you if you have information, be honest. Don t tell them you don t have information if you do. Tell them that you are not at liberty to share and tell them why, for example, The information is sensitive or proprietary or I have been asked to keep it confidential and I need to honor that request. Be prepared for the possibility that your responses may not please people and some may feel that you really should or could tell them if you wanted to. If you establish a track record of early, honest information sharing, you will have more room to occasionally withhold information when the situation dictates. In some cases, you may not have been asked to keep confidentiality, but the nature of what you have to say is better left unsaid. Here are a few examples: Don t try to become popular with your employees by talking negatively about others. You can t develop trust if you can t be trusted. Give bad news in private; one-on-one meetings (preferably in an informal atmosphere) make things appear less severe. In addition, such meetings provide an opportunity for your employees to vent frustrations, and the meetings enhance problem solving. Give individual feedback in private. Do not blame unpopular messages on the organization or your manager. After you have voiced disagreement with the appropriate people, you need to support the initiatives of the organization. Page 6 OHR/Organizational Effectiveness

11 Good Communication Information is Power In our environment of constant change, sharing information is critical. The more information you can share with your employees, the more committed and empowered they will feel. To ensure that employees feel important and valued, here are some things you can do: Share information face-to-face, especially if it is difficult to deliver or will affect your employees in significant ways. Tell your employees the news yourself, rather than having them learn it via memo or from some other source. Research shows that people believe it and react more favorably when the news is delivered in this manner. Beware of critical information flowing down through many layers. If it must flow down, double-check to be sure the message is getting through. Many of us have played telephone before, when a story has been repeated several times it barely sounds like the original. Get creative. The more creatively a message is sent, the greater the chance it will be noticed. For especially important messages, consider doing the unexpected. If people are used to hearing news via a memo, try face-to-face or video next time. Take the attitude that it is better to give too much information than too little. Hold impromptu meetings in the office, which should be short. If you don t have new information, encourage questions, which may uncover issues you are not aware of. Keep a flipchart or whiteboard in your work area. Write news on it regularly. Allow your employees to record questions that they want to deal with at your meetings. If you don t give information to your employees, they will at best speculate what s going on, at worst, they will make it up and tell others. Take a look at what happens when you withhold information: Manager (that s you!) Thinks It s too early to tell them. This news is too frightening - we d better wait. I m afraid if we tell them, productivity will drop. Employees Think Silence must mean it s pretty bad. We re going through another reorganization. The company s going belly-up. Where else can I get a job? Here are some things you can do to deal with rumors: Never deny or lie about the truth your credibility will suffer, and trust between you and your employees will be jeopardized. Information often reaches your people before you get a chance to tell them. Try to track down the source and establish whether the information is truth or fiction. Give your employees the facts as soon as you have them and have permission to share them. Go to a credible source to validate the truth. Find out if you or your employees will be affected. Find ways to position your employees to take advantage of the situation. Develop a plan to demonstrate how you and your employees could make the change successful. Go to the source of the rumor and have a tactful, direct conversation. Ask them what they ve heard, give them what information you can about the issue, reiterate the importance of not spreading rumors and encourage them to come directly to you if they are speculating about something. Tips for New Supervisors Page 7

12 Good Communication Setting the Tone Employees will follow your lead whether you realize it or not. You have the power to influence the attitude of the group simply through the delivery of your communications. By setting a positive tone, you will increase the likelihood of having your employees make suggestions and offer up ideas. When you can create this two-way dialogue, you will be setting the foundation for a strong, committed team. Check out this list of tips to set a positive tone when communicating: Encourage communication from your employees. Manage by walking around. Be visible. Maintain an open-door policy. Listen to what employees are telling you. Listen to understand rather than to rebut. Listen to their thoughts as well as their feelings. This demonstrates respect and will encourage further idea sharing. Ask for employees opinions. This gesture makes employees feel valued and it can have a positive impact on their commitment. Encourage employees ideas by setting up suggestion systems, performance improvement teams, focus groups, and communication sessions. Act on these ideas to encourage involvement. If you can t act, explain why not as soon as possible. Thank employees for their suggestions, even if you don t always agree with them. Challenge yourself to think of how the idea could work rather than why it might not. If you are not clear about an idea you are listening to, repeat it in your own words. This will reinforce your understanding and demonstrate your interest. Don t just tell your employees what to do; explain the reasons behind it. Be conscious of your communication style. You will discourage communication if you: Yell. Raising the volume is not an effective way to get a point across. Preach. Talking in moralizing terms implies that others don t have the same or equal ethical standards. Patronize. It makes others feel like they are being treated like children. Scold. Waving your finger at others makes them feel inferior. Focus on the behavior or problem, not the person. Are negative. Don t put down others ideas. Look for the positive. If you always show your employees what s wrong with their suggestions, they soon stop giving them. Maintain a positive approach. Smile. Look and act interested. Page 8 OHR/Organizational Effectiveness

13 Good Communication Don t Break Confidentiality It s easy to be invigorated by the energy and empowerment that follows after sharing information with your team. There is some information however, that only managers are privy to, and as much as you d like to, you can t share with your team. Here are some guidelines to follow when information must be held in confidence: Don t share the information no matter how tempting it might be. Never use information-withholding as a power tool. If you are given proprietary or secret information, do not tell people you have it unless they ask you. If people ask you if you have information, be honest. Don t tell them you don t have information if you do. Tell them that you are not at liberty to share and tell them why, for example, The information is sensitive or proprietary or I have been asked to keep it confidential and I need to honor that request. Be prepared for the possibility that your responses may not please people and some may feel that you really should or could tell them if you wanted to. If you establish a track record of early, honest information sharing, you will have more room to occasionally withhold information when the situation dictates. In some cases, you may not have been asked to keep confidentiality, but the nature of what you have to say is better left unsaid. Here are a few examples: Don t try to become popular with your employees by talking negatively about others. You can t develop trust if you can t be trusted. Give individual feedback in private. Do not blame unpopular messages on the organization or your manager. After you have voiced disagreement with the appropriate people, you need to support the initiatives of the organization. Tips for New Supervisors Page 9

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