A couple of weeks ago I talked about the problem of supervisors who channel Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Mr. Spock, if you recall, has tremendous technical expertise – but lacks people skills. He was likely appointed to his position because of that technical expertise and loves solving all the tough problems. By the same token, he really doesn’t like the people aspects of the job. The reality is that you get higher pay for being a supervisor because it’s hard to do the people stuff, and the expectation is that you’ll do it as a major part of your job.
So, here are several more ideas to help Mr. Spock be a better people person, and thus a better supervisor.
- Do some warm and fuzzy stuff: ask employees how they’re doing and actively listen to the answer, remember who told you about their child or parent or hobby (it may be necessary to keep a few notes after employee interactions as reminders), express sincere concern for what’s happening in their lives without being inappropriate or intrusive (yes, boundaries are important). No need to fake friendliness and suddenly become touchy-feely. Just let that inner caring person come out a bit.
- Compliment employees in a meaningful way: acknowledge good work (that’s important to most employees) by being specific about the skills the employee demonstrates and how those skills made a real difference in a particular situation. For example, don’t just say, “Good job, Joe!” Say, “Joe, I saw you with that upset customer. You quieted your voice, politely asked her to explain the problem, paraphrased what she said to be sure you understood and thanked her for bringing it to your attention. That allowed you to fix the issue and have her leave happy so she’ll likely return. That was really great customer service!” If saying it is too hard, write a note or an e-mail, and be sure to remember these things when it comes time for performance appraisals or bonuses.
- Ask employees to help: Involve employees in real ways to improve matters, but don’t ask them to be involved when you already know what you’re going to do. I’ve seen lots of supervisors get into trouble when they ask for employee input without really meaning it. So, ask for input, and be clear about what you’re going to do with it. Say, “We’re considering buying a new floor waxer. Tell me what bells and whistles you want and we’ll do our best (within budget) to get one that includes those.” Don’t say, “What brand do you like?” and leave it at that, because that communicates you’ll get the brand the employees tell you they want – unless that’s actually what you intend to do.
Again, these are all skills in interacting successfully with subordinates. They probably seem awkward at first, but practice them and you’ll become a much better supervisor!
Are there other points you’d like to pass on to Mr. Spock? Let us know! ~ Daphne Schneider