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Correctional Supervisors - How to avoid making basic management mistakes
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 02/03/2014

Managementweb Making simple mistakes as a new correctional supervisor is common when the road to success is void of self-discipline and self-development planning. Working on hunches or gut feelings is no way to demonstrate your value to the organization and reacting from experiences or “lessons learned” techniques is flawed at its best because not every problem or scenario is the same thus problem solving should be thorough and not a cookie cutter event.

The first step in correcting such behavior, or lack of management skill set, is to admit you have one and that mistakes are showing up way too much in your decision making as well as your leadership or guidance habits. As a supervisor there will be mistakes but in order to add value to your team or organization you must avoid making common errors that may create more difficult situations for staff under your command.

The first step is to acknowledge what you know and what skill set you have. Selling yourself short is better than being overconfident and selling yourself too much to your boss or team. Once you made a self-assessment of your skill set you need to make plans to improve your development and commit to learning more while making the transition from worker to supervisor. It is one basic element that keeps your feet firmly planted on the ground and allows you a little wiggle room to adjust your management styles.

Whether you work alone or as a member of a team you must always be responsible for your own actions or work. You should immediately set some goals where you want to be in six or nine months and remain focused on self-improvement during that time period. Your goals should be geared on how you expect your skill set to function and direct your subordinates that may have been your former co-workers as part of a team in the past.

Mentally you must realign and adjust your relationships when you become a supervisor and acknowledge that everything that was before has now changed. You must understand the concept that not only are you responsible for your own work but also the work of others.

Basically, you need to work on your self-development skills focusing on people skills as you will need to identify different people with different talents to get the job done. People skills are sometimes neglected when promoted and must be a main element of your adjustment in management styles and business skill sets instrumental in getting the job done effectively and on time.

Secondly as a new supervisor you must set clear goals and expectations of others as well as yourself. Effective performance skills begins with clear goals. If you offer your team no direction employees will have less initiative to work hard and meet challenges presented to them while on duty. Remember that your goals should be aligned with your employee goals.

Motivation is a great tool but one must have a vision of the direction to stay on track of expectations and measuring success. Leaving your team or co-workers in the dark is the fastest way to fail your duties and responsibilities to get things done.

Meeting with staff begins this vision creation. Work on acquiring realistic and attainable goals together in efforts to meet all challenges and organizational expectations. These meetings should be two fold – it should begin with a vision of where you want to be and where your employees should be when the job is done right. In other words, you need to help them to help you and your organization and motivate them to do their best while working with you on improving the environment and work place.

It has been said that the number one reason supervisors fail is because of their inability to delegate effectively. The first thing a supervisor should recognize is that despite no matter how hard you work, you can’t do everything by yourself and need the help of others to get it done. Effectively delegating work impacts your ability to manage time and the more you manage time the more effective use there is to get things done.

Share your talents with those you have confidence in and prepare them for their successive career development by delegating those things that will allow you to be a better leader. Mathematically you get more things done in less time and that leaves you more opportunities to improve things along the way. Knowing which one of your employees can do the job builds confidence in them and allows them opportunities to develop their value to the team and organization while completing assigned work and duties.

How many times have you heard the phrase “what we have here is a failure to communicate” and tempers flare because of misunderstandings or not having a clue about what is going on and what expectations were set on job assignments? Controlling information is not always a necessity and should be open for discussion among the team and co-workers. There has always been a conflict between sharing knowledge and whether knowledge is public or private. The fact remains that if you don’t share knowledge your value to the team or organization diminishes rather than increases as it impacts work relationships and quality of work.

Teams can be made more effectively through empowerment of knowledge and positive communications. Making an effort to share information with employees is critical for success and must be done on an on-going basis especially during a time of change in administrations or operating procedures. It impacts decision making and employee morale as you endure these changes with a sense of awareness and expectations from your viewpoint and knowledge.

Learning the value of making time for your employees and showing you care and trust them to do the job and do it right is very important. Promotions often lead to alienation or bad feelings for some but fortunately it is the best time to change the way people feel about you as you take the role of being their boss seriously but at the same time make time to coach them, mentor them and guide them during the course of their careers.

Being unselfish pays off large dividends and shows your staff you still trust them and manage them with mutual respect while assessing their individual needs for improvements and address them in a most positive way without criticism and harsh words. Remembering that not every employee is not the same you must be aware some may be highly experienced and require little attention while others may need to be mentored or guided at certain levels.

Managing is primarily a people job. It would always be to your benefit to take the time and put the phone down or unanswered and make time to listen to someone making sure you are available when they need you. Focusing on them is priceless as it is important to know what they are thinking and what it is they have to say. The better you know your employees the easier it is to recognize their achievements and contributions to the team and organization. This is especially important when it comes to reduction in force agendas and downsizing of a team or organization.

Promotions or recognitions of someone’s value is often based on team or organizational success but if can also be based on a personal award or achievement. Making successful things happen draws attention to their value and is often rewarded with some kind of recognition or event. On the other side of this coin is the creation of attitudes that focus on failures and the unwillingness to learn from such events.

Unfortunately those picked for promotions may in fact not be successful at all but are carried by their team members and once promoted experience failures due to the fact they were never really qualified to handle additional responsibilities and work loads.

Last but not least is taking it all too serious when promoted and changing the way you conduct business creating different dynamics that once made you successful but is not setting you up for failure. Attitudes play a big part in managing people. It can open up doors or close them depending how you interact with your employees. If you were once a joker and quick to reward or show appreciation for their work and then do a complete turnaround it may be detrimental to your relationships and communication efforts.

Tolerance is the key and moderation should be considered when issues praise or disciplinary action when things go bad or the need arises to conduct corrective action on a performance deficiency or personal behavior or misconduct.


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