Small business and government grants resources home
How To Improve
Your Supervising and Leadership Skills
In organizations we must
work with and for others. To be able to mutually achieve our
goals we must be able to relate to others effectively. These
ideas will help you be a better supervisor and leader.
- Catch people doing things
right and then let them know that they are doing things
- Use feedback to stay
informed about what other people are doing in your area of
responsibility and authority.
- Have regular, focused
meetings regarding the projects that you are responsible
- Provide adequate
instructions. Time is lost if things are not done
- Train others to do jobs.
You cannot do them all, nor can others do them if they
have not been trained.
- Expect others to succeed.
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when you believe
others are loyal, dedicated and doing a good job.
- Help others see how they
will benefit from doing a job. This is when they truly
- Do not avoid talking to a
poor performer. It hurts them, the organization and
yourself if the situation is not dealt with.
- Do not over control
others. It is frustrating for them and time consuming for
- Focus on results, not on
activities or personalities.
- Reward people for the
results that they produce.
- Manage by walking around.
See what people are doing and listen to what they have to
- Make quality an obsession,
especially on smaller items.
- Send thank you notes and
- Provide workers with open,
direct, and immediate feedback on their actual performance
as compared to expected performance and they tend to
correct their own deficiencies.
- Practice naive listening.
Don't talk, just let people explain why they are doing the
types of things that they are doing. You will learn many
- Manage by exception. When
things are going well, leave them alone. When a problem
occurs, then help.
- Never seek to place blame.
Always focus on the problem.
- Never ignore a concern of
one of your people. While it may seem trivial to you, to
the other person it is a problem that will continue to
destroy their train of thought.
- Make it a personal rule
and a challenge to respond to someone within 24 hours of
hearing their request.
- Keep memos on bulletin
boards to a minimum. People will spend less time standing
- Give employees an
opportunity to speak their opinions and suggestions
without fear of ridicule or reprisal.
- When you are going to make
a change that affects others, get them involved before
making the actual change. This increases commitment to
make the change work after it is implemented.
- Put key ideas on small
posters to hang around the office.
- When the environment and
your sincerity permit, give the person a hug or a touch.
- Employees are the only
organization resource that can, with training, appreciate
in value. All other resources depreciate.
- People want to be involved
in something important. Give them a whole project or a
significant piece of the project to work on.
- Have salary tied into
performance appraisal and accomplishing of objectives.
- Consider sharing
distasteful tasks to reduce resentment and hard feelings.
- Ask, "Will you please do
this for me" instead of telling someone just to do it.
- Eliminate private
secretaries in favor of shared secretaries in order to
make it easier to even out the work load.
- If you give employees a
basic employee handbook, you will not be interrupted with
- Pay attention to small
details, the big ones are obvious and get taken care of.
- Stay open in your
thinking. Be open to all new ideas. Do this and you will
not be setting up barriers that do not exist.
- Avoid asking others to do
trivial personal items for you.
- Say thank you to those
with whom you associate.
- A warm smile and strong
handshake break barriers.
- Smile. It helps you feel
better and is contagious. The whole organization shudders
when the boss is frowning. Likewise it smiles when the
- Keep things "light" and
have fun rather than being too serious. Seriousness blocks
- In order to fly with the
eagles you must "think lightly."
- Work with each person to
create standard operating procedures for their specific
job. It will eliminate repetitious questions.
- Let people know why they
are doing something. It then becomes more meaningful when
they recognize their part in a greater vision.
- Provide soft, lively
background music not slow and not rock.
- To get a disorganized
coffee drinking crew started off more efficiently, begin
each day with a 5 to 10 minute meeting just at starting
time. They will be focused, set in the right direction and
can get right to work.
- Practice the golden rule
in business: Do unto others the way you would have them do
unto you. Fairness will then be in your business.
- Practice the platinum rule
in interpersonal relationships. It is "Do unto others, the
way they want to be done unto." They will be more apt to
stay comfortable when interacting with us when we are able
to do things their preferred way.
- Get others to commit to
deadlines by asking, "When can you have that for me?"
- Nail down commitment by
asking, "Do I have your word that you will have that for
- Set the stage for
cooperation from others by:1) Introducing the idea; 2)
Continual stimulation by talking about it; and 3) get
others to make an investment by having them participate in
- If you are unable to reach
agreement or get a commitment from another person in a
meeting, agree to disagree, but summarize your
understanding in a confirming memo.
- Giving people recognition
generates energy within them. They will then direct that
energy toward increased productivity.
- Tap the potential of those
working for you by giving them opportunities to think
things through for themselves instead of just telling them
how to do something.
- Always give people the
benefit of the doubt. They may not be the cause of a
problem. The cause may be beyond their control.
- Admit it when you do not
know the answer to a question posed by a staff member.
Then challenge the staff person to research and decide
what the best answer is. It will help this person grow.
- Be persistent and follow
- When you were away and
some of your people did an exceptional job, call them at
home in the evening when you find out and personally thank
them for what they did instead of waiting until the next
time you see them.
- If you know that a person
will respond angrily to a particular comment, avoid
bringing it up. It is nonproductive and bad for the
relationship. In other words, "never kick a skunk."
- When you appreciate what
someone has done, let them know and put it in writing.
This can then be added to their personnel file.
- Have an opinion survey
done to determine how people view the organization. That
way you can catch any problems while they are still small.
- Encourage periods of
uninterrupted activity such as a daily quiet hour in your
department or work group.
- When asking someone to do
something, let them know what is in it for them and the
organization. Do not focus just on what is in it for the
organization and yourself.
- The boss is the strongest
model the employees have. Be a positive model as people
are watching to see how you behave. They will reflect this
in their own behavior. Lead by example.
- Be a member of the 4 F
club with others. Be seen as Fair, Firm, Friendly and
- Do not help others unless
they need and ask for help.
- Encourage your people to
come up with new ideas and ways to do things. Give them
credit and recognition for the idea.
- If a new idea won't work,
at least praise the effort of the person so they will come
up with future ideas.
- Once a month meet with
each staff member to catch any problems or concerns the
person may have as soon as possible before they become a
- Be the kind of a person
that others want to help out and work for.
- Be flexible and do
whatever it takes to get the job done. Remember it is
results that count, not activities.
- Generally speaking,
getting something done perfectly is usually not as
important as getting it done. Perfection has a high cost
and it may not be worth it.
- When giving or receiving
information, don't hurry. Take the time needed to truly
understand. It prevents future problems and
- Whenever you are having an
important discussion with a person, before parting, set a
specific follow-up date and time and write it in your
- Never criticize an
employee in front of others. Have all discussions of a
corrective nature in private.
- Hire people with specific
skills and interests that match what the organization
needs to have accomplished. The better the match, the
better the productivity and the more motivated the person.
- Treat people as people-not
- Flaring in anger will
drive others away. If not physically at least mentally,
- Keep a "warm fuzzy" file
for each person a place to keep track of the things you
have already complimented them for, and want to compliment
- Have regular performance
review and goal setting sessions with each of your
employees at least every three months.
- Have regular "development
discussions" with each of your people in which you discuss
only how the individual may grow personally and how you
and the organization may be able to support them in doing
- Low morale in workers may
be an indication of the boss only talking about negative
things or what's wrong. Be sure to balance negative
comments with more frequent positive comments.
- Let your people know you
are there to help them not to harass them.
- Telling people what you
plan to do, and when, can be a catalyst for getting
objections and input which you might not otherwise
- Form an action team to
address people's problems right away rather than letting
things drag out and perhaps get worse.
- Instead of saying to
another, "What can I do for you?" ask them "What can you
do for me on this project?"
- Do not hold back from
discussing the need to improve performance with one of
- Encourage others to
develop their plan of action and give you a detailed
- Encourage individuals to
compete against themselves to achieve more. Let it be a
personal challenge to become better as an individual-not
competing with others but self.
- Check the ratio of
positive comments to negative comments that you make to
your people. Purposely make more positive comments.
- Demand accountability.
- Do things for others. They
will be more willing to do things for you.
- Consider using time off as
a reward for getting things done ahead of time.
- Set up an orientation
training program for all new employees. It will help them
learn their way around as well as teach them where things
are kept and why.
- Stay informed of
subordinates' needs and interests. Projects can be more
effectively designed and rotated when you are well
- If individuals needs some
encouragement in taking action, ask them, "What if..."
questions to help them see what choices of action are
- Let people know that you
know they can do it.
- Ask questions creatively
so the action to be taken is suggested by the person who
is to take it.
- Set up incentives that
reward desired performance.
- Ask others for their
estimate of how long it will take to do a project. When
possible, agree and hold them accountable for that goal.
- Take on someone else's
routine so they can do what you need done without
- Just as with family
members, break large chores up into small, fun activities
and enjoy doing them with team members.
- Before an employee leaves
on vacation agree on a "must do" list of activities to be
- Do not be quick to judge
others. Learn to listen carefully before coming to
- Consider sharing ideas and
responsibility with others rather than just getting
someone to do it for you or just doing it yourself.
- Inspire others to new
levels of achievement by using positive encouraging
feedback and ideas.
- Don't just ask someone who
is busy to get things done for you; look for the busy
person who is getting results. This is a doer, not simply
a busy wheel spinner.
- Believe in the good of
- Do not be a "baby sitter"
of others, constantly taking care of them and telling them
what to do. Challenge them and help them learn to think
and do things for themselves.
- Consider an incentive plan
to reward productivity gains.
- Don't do what you can get
someone else to do by simply asking.
- Clearly communicate who
you want to do what, by when and at what cost. Then
identify who needs to know about it and when they are to
- For people you relate to
regularly, keep a list of things you need to talk to the
person about. Then when you meet with or call them, you
can review all the items that have accumulated on your
- Recognize you are not the
only one who can do a job right. Trust others to do things
- Organize, deputize,
- Meditate for one minute
before starting a new subject or project.
- Don't worry about who gets
the credit for completing a project. Focus on the task to
be accomplished and do it.
- When credit is given to
you for completion of a project, be sure to give it to all
who were involved. This will nurture the relationships and
provide motivation to support you in the future.
- Be sincerely interested in
the people working for and with you.
- Help others recognize
their own importance.
- Keep a list of birthdays,
marriage and work anniversaries and other special dates.
Provide recognition to your people on each of these dates.
Mark your calendar prior to the actual date so you have
time to prepare for it.
How To Spot
wants to take a vacation.
There's a reason, and
it's not workaholism. Bookkeepers behaving badly like to
be in a position to intercept phone calls and
correspondence. And as for the boss rifling through
their desk to find something when they're out of the
office -- that would be unbearable, of course!
has more work to do than can possibly get finished during
normal working hours
So much, in fact, that
they have to stay after everyone else goes home. Or, if
you'll let them, they like to take the work home. This
might not be the loyalty you expect: unsupervised work
lets the bookkeeper tamper with records with less chance
tattletale. Likes to point out incompetence of other
Pointing fingers at
others puts an alibi in place, should you discover
something amiss. Dan doesn't collect all his accounts.
The deposit seemed too small? (It's Dan). Sharon hangs
around the office when she doesn't belong there. There
is postage missing? (Could be Sharon) Linda is
disorganized. Why is this letter misfiled? (Linda is
sloppy) Maybe the bookkeeper deposited some of Dan's
deposit in her own account, and also purloined the
postage. Linda's letter might be misfiled because the
bookkeeper didn't want an auditor to see it.
Volunteers to take care of details that should be handled
by the principals -- helping by picking up signature cards
when you open a new bank account, for example.
The more details the
bookkeeper handles, the more opportunity for sticky
fingers, and the easier it is to cover things up.
5. Likes to
pick up the mail, even if it makes more sense for a
lower-level employee to take on that task.
The mail is both tempting
and frightening to employees who steal. Checks come in
the mail. So do unexpected notices that might tip you
off to their theft.
like bookkeeping tasks are as difficult as brain surgery,
and twice as complex.
I dump any bookkeeper who
can't explain things to me in terms I can understand.
That goes double for accountants who respond to my nosy
questions by taking offense. --She acts like she doesn't
TRUST me!-- Yes. When they guilt trip you, watch your
little fibs, perhaps unrelated to accounting
Little lies tell big
stories about people's character.
8. Seems to
feel that the company owes something; as if he has done
more than could be expected of any reasonable person
In fact, most employees
who take things really DO believe the company owes it to
them. They may start by ...well, borrowing... then
justify turning it into a theft by deciding you don't
pay them enough.
in precise, tidy letters, but can't seem to find things
when you ask; shuffles some things into messy little
Aha! This is a really
good tip-off. People's habits aren't usually so schizo
-- they are either consistently messy or compulsively
tidy. Accountants, more often than not, fall into the
tidy category. If you've got one that's tidy and messy
at the same time, start spot-checking everything that
Volunteers to take the following things off your busy
1) Interfacing with
auditors 2) personally making the police report if an
item turns up missing 3) IRS correspondence