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SWON News: The Low Down

"I'd like to talk to the manager."

Friday, August 21, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Nathan Swartzendruber
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One of the challenge new supervisors face is the change in the kind of work they have to do. There's work for them to do at a desk. And oh, there's plenty of that.

There's also the matter of supervising the work of people in your charge. Supervisors read emails or reports from them and see other evidence of their work, but nothing takes the place of going out to where the staff works.

One philosophy that illustrates this is called Managing By Walking Around (MBWA, sometimes alternately expanded as Management By Wandering About). The MBWA Wikipedia page suggests this works by a manager taking a random sampling of events.

Random may not be reasonable to attempt, but limiting the structure of these interactions can help managers get a broader understanding of the front line staff's work and issues.

Supervisors don't go out just to be seen. In fact, just being present has been shown not to be helpful unless it "enabled active problem solving." Sometimes staff get stuck by problems; explaining a problem or what they're working on to a manager creates an opportunity for feedback, clear decision-making or knowledge-sharing that can keep the wheels moving.

First-time supervisors, especially those promoted internally, can feel awkward about having a visible presence with staff. And certainly their own work has to be done, making it tempting to keep your attention on your inbox. MBWA is a good reminder that staff need your active engagement too.

  • Nathan Swartzendruber, SWON Technology Educator

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