New Supervisor Playbook
A guide for transitioning from being an individual contributor to a supervisor, and/or joining TTS as a new supervisor.
Whether you are starting your supervisory career for the first time or joining TTS as a new hire, it can be daunting to step into a supervisory role and feel successful at the start. I have written this playbook to document my experience re-joining TTS as an Engineering Supervisor after serving as a people manager and business unit director in previous jobs. My hope is that it will help others who choose to follow a similar path and enable them to feel at home and find their own paths to success.
If this is your first time as a supervisor, please remember that becoming a supervisor is a career change. This can be incredibly jarring, especially as it requires learning a new set of skills and understanding that you are trading control and expertise for influence and increased responsibility. This is okay! Just be sure you step into this with eyes wide open and be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes, but as long as you take ownership of them and learn from them, you will find a rhythm that works for you and your team.
One of the key things to bear in mind about being a supervisor, regardless if you’re new to the role or have some years under your belt, is that it is a burden of responsibility, not a blessing of power. You must maintain a healthy respect for the role and the responsibility bestowed upon you. You are directly responsible for other individuals and that means their success and failure is tied to your ability and willingness to support them, provide them with what they need, and hold them accountable for their work.
You are also responsible for making sure your team is delivering the results and value expected of them; but, that does not mean bearing down on your team members and directing all of your focus on them. Instead, you should be creating opportunities for them to grow and take ownership of their work while holding them accountable for the delivery and results. In other words, a supervisor should be a force multiplier that helps expand their team’s capabilities, thus expanding the capabilities of their organization, and doing so in sustainable ways.
As a supervisor, there are several core principles to take to heart:
- Inspire your team members
- Coach and mentor your team members (and encourage them to do the same with each other as well!)
- Provide constructive feedback that is timely, specific, and actionable; this includes praise for a job well done and highlighting areas for improvement when outcomes didn’t meet expectations
- Promote, advocate, and champion others, especially those from under-served and under-privileged groups
- Give credit and take blame: the team’s success belongs to them, but their failures belong to you
Above all, make time for your team members: actively listen to people and hear what they say to truly understand them, support them as best you can, and promote inclusion throughout the team. Deal with problems directly and never ignore them. Lastly, be sure to follow through and honor your commitments. By holding yourself accountable in this regard (or better yet, asking your supervisor for help as an accountability partner!), you will become - or continue to be - a successful and effective supervisor that others will admire, respect, and trust.
I wish you the best of luck on your supervisory and leadership journey!
Each play contains a short description about the philosophy and goals behind it and a small checklist to help guide you. The intent is to provide specific, actionable things that you can get started with right away, especially if this is your first time supervising.
- Play 1 - Understand the power differential when becoming a supervisor
- Play 2 - Build connections and lay the foundation for solid relationships
- Play 3 - Observe and learn before you cause unnecessary churn
- Play 4 - Ask questions, then ask more questions; in fact, never stop asking questions!
- Play 5 - Document, document, document
- Play 6 - Be human; bring your authentic self to work, and get to know the story of others
- Play 7 - Learn how to delegate effectively
- Play 8 - Be decisive and involve others whenever possible
- Play 9 - Be patient with yourself and allow feelings of discomfort
- Play 10 - Promote a healthy culture of improvement through constructive feedback
- Play 11 - Promote a healthy culture of accountability with empathy and respect
- Play 12 - Lead by example, leverage the power of self-reflection, and be accountable