All of us have been supervised at one time or another. When we were small, we needed our parents to give us supervision and direction in life. As we grew up we had teachers and coaches to guide us and show us how to understand new concepts in school. When we started driving a vehicle we needed supervision. As adults, we got a job and started our own life. We soon discovered that new employees must be supervised so that they can learn how to do their job correctly. All of this is for the purpose of mentorship in order to learn how to do things properly. It is always meant to help, not harm.
Years ago, when I was a school principal, I would walk the halls and visit classrooms, the lunchroom, the gymnasium, the auditorium, and the office, too. I was in and out of all of those places throughout each day. My job was to supervise everything that was going on and I did that by walking around, checking to be sure that all was running smoothly as it should. I quickly learned that I could supervise better when I knew what was actually happening. That methodology is now recognized as a strategic management technique called MBWA (Managing by Walking Around). I think it is the best form of management and supervision. You soon discover what is actually going on rather than listening to rumors or hearing horror stories after school or work each day! The challenge, however, is not in supervising the school environment, but in all other areas of life as well. The “trick” is to remain a supervisor and not become a “snoopervisor.” Let me explain.
A “snoopervisor” is someone who is motivated by suspicion and fear and is always trying to catch you in some kind of mistake. They are looking over your shoulder or watching, just waiting to see if they can discover something you are doing wrong so that they can exercise their authority and “call you on the carpet.” Naturally, no one wants to be “snoopervised!” However, I have found that people are very open to being supervised when you are forthright and honest with them. Children respond better when they have clear boundaries and believe you are for them and not against them.
As a school principal, I had sixty-five teachers on my faculty and staff, so I did not always have time to sit with each one to discuss what I had observed after being in their classroom. Time just did not allow for one-on-one conferences to take place every day. However, I learned that some of my teachers were a little nervous when they did not hear anything from me after I had been in their classroom that same day. All of that changed one afternoon when I addressed their concern in a faculty meeting. I explained that if they did not hear from me or find a meeting note in their teacher’s box by the time they left work for the day, they could be confident that everything was fine. I assured them that I was not keeping a secret list of “wrongs” that I planned to surprise them with when it was time for their yearly review and contract signing to occur. I made it very clear that I was not “snoopervising,” I was simply supervising, looking for ways to improve what we were doing as an educational institution on a daily basis. That brought the concern of the teachers to an end immediately.
Who are you in charge of supervising today? Maybe it is your employees. Or, it may be your children or a family member whose needs you are responsible to meet or guide or help. They will appreciate any supervision or wisdom that you can offer them, but they will be bitter and resentful if they think you are snooping around, trying to catch them doing something wrong. Again, the root of all that is fear and it does no one any good. Explaining expectations up front and being clear about the end results you are trying to achieve prevents resentment later on down the road! I even went so far as to explain to my teachers and students that as the Principal, I was the “Prince of Pals” in the school simply tying to make things better. I did not want to be feared. I wanted to be a blessing.
The next time you are in charge of a situation and functioning as a supervisor, why not be forthright and let people know exactly what you are looking for and what you are trying to accomplish? You will always have to make adjustments along the way. That is just the nature of supervision and life in general. However, I have found if you are upfront with people in the beginning, your honesty and transparency will go a long way in helping others do a good job. Sure, there will always be a few who try to push the limits with a “barely get by” mentality. But for the most part, it will only be a matter of time until they learn what your expectations are towards them in order for them to become a “top performer”. At that point in time they no longer need to be supervised. This has been working for me for over 45 years and I can assure you that it will work for you in your business and family as well. Try it…you will like it. They will too!
Tip: Be a supervisor, not a “snoopervisor”!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm