Using our Public Service Leadership Model to become a better supervisor
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Using our Public Service Leadership Model to become a better supervisor

October 23, 2023 | Updated on October 24, 2023

IMAGINE getting a new responsibility you’ve never had before. You’ve demonstrated signs of success but have never had to work in this new area full time. Starting now, other people rely on you and expect you to produce and have an immediate impact.  

Public Service Leadership Model
Public Service Leadership Model

You might be thinking that the new responsibility involves managing a project or a budget. But what about supervising? Whether it’s one direct report, four people or a team of 10, supervising is often a side responsibility placed on those who demonstrate high performance in their area of expertise. More often than not, supervising is also the hardest skill to develop during your next career phase. 

If you’re new to supervising or need a reminder, here are a few keys from our Public Service Leadership Model to elevate your supervision style. 

  1. Self-Reflection. 
  1. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  
  1. Adaptability. 
  1. Accountability. 

1. Self-Reflection

Supervising is like being on a tight rope with a pole, balancing your technical responsibilities on one side and your supervision responsibilities on the other. Wherever you are in your journey as a supervisor, take the time to reflect. That might be the hardest part, finding time! Then remember to be honest with yourself. You aren’t expected to be perfect.  

Try starting here: Put a calendar hold on your calendar for 15 minutes at the end of each week. Don’t think about it, do it now, and consider asking yourself the following reflective questions: 

  • What do I want to replicate from great supervisors I’ve observed? What do I want to avoid? 
  • What went well during my check-ins this week? 
  • Was I clear when delegating tasks during that meeting? 
  • Did I create time for everyone to contribute or voice opinions during meetings? 

2. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

You might be younger than some of your direct reports or  supervising a former peer. To build trust, understand that everyone has unique perspectives on decisions, their work, organizational change and more, and that it’s your responsibility to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking up, contributing and being themselves.  

To do this, be genuinely curious, ask open-ended questions and listen, follow up if needed, and show you care by demonstrating respect and treating others as they wish to be treated.  

3. Adaptability 

Think about this competency in two main ways: 

  • Adapt to the needs of your team and expectations from senior leaders. There’s that tight rope again, but this time it’s with a crowd of chaos below. When faced with decisions that impact everyone around you, how you adapt to meet your various audiences and stakeholders is key. How are you confidently conveying information on behalf of senior leaders? How are you demonstrating empathy when delivering uncomfortable news to direct reports?
  • Adapting to the needs of individuals on your team. You should be the same person to everyone but identify how each direct report prefers to be led and influenced. Leaders that are stuck in their ways when the situation necessitates change will eventually be leading only themselves.

“Leaders that are stuck in their ways when the situation necessitates change will eventually be leading only themselves.”

4. Accountability

To hold your direct reports accountable, they need to see you hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for your actions or inactions. As you settle into your role, find quick wins and opportunities to take on a task, and follow through on time. Also aim to take sole ownership of decisions and consequences, good and bad.  

In addition, whenever you get the opportunity to redirect praise and highlight your direct reports, take it! You’ll earn their trust and loyalty in ways you can’t imagine, and demonstrate for senior leaders your immense potential to grow beyond your current role. 

Next, take a breath. Really. Before meetings, presentations or even the beginning of the day, take a breath, be thoughtful of the few skill areas you want to focus –the ones above are a great start—and, as you learn and develop, know that these new behaviors will soon become a part of your elevated supervisory style.  

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