Congratulations! You’ve been promoted to a supervisory role. These words are bound to spark a range of emotions for you — fear, anxiety, cheerfulness and maybe even shock. Faced with the reality that you are now in a formal leadership role with a different set of responsibilities and expectations, you ask yourself, “Am I prepared for this?”
On day one of the NextGen Summit 2021, senior manager, leadership coach and speaker Virginia Hill provided four key steps for better preparing yourself to move into a supervisory position. In the breakout session, Hill also shared best practices and the 10 most important competencies for supervisory work according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
The 4 Steps and Key Takeaways
According to Hill, aspiring leaders should follow four steps to prepare themselves to move into a supervisory role:
- Bulk up on self-awareness
- Lead now!
Leadership is a choice, not a position. “In awareness we have choice,” Hill said. She advised doing your research so that you can make an educated decision about taking on a supervisory role. Talk to colleagues who are in positions you aspire to do by conducting informational interviews and asking powerful questions. One question could be: What do you wish you would have known before starting a supervisory role?
- One thing people will forget about when preparing for a supervisory role is how their lives and role will change, such as spending time in meetings. “People are often not prepared for this,” Hill said. Your days will look different as a supervisor, focused on listening to problems, developing others, attending more meetings and building relationships, she explained.
For aspiring leaders, “dip your toe in the water and get experience to build your skills and your resume,” Hill said. Some ideas on how you can dabble are:
- Take on a mentee, or someone who is junior in your organization, and show them the ropes.
- Find ways to gain experience delegating and onboarding new employees.
- Volunteer to lead a committee or project team (or create one if there are none).
- Substitute for others in leadership roles. Hill suggests you “work above your paygrade to qualify for that paygrade.”
- Change your title without changing your position description. This is yet another way you can demonstrate leadership experience on your resume if your current title doesn’t reflect it.
- Read books and practice leadership skills.
- Lead a project or an initiative at work or volunteer in your community.
Takeaway: Bulk up on self-awareness
Hill stressed that self-knowledge can be “cultivated intentionally” by learning “what makes you tick (motivates you) and what ticks you off (drains you).”
Here are three creative ways you can develop self-knowledge:
- Take research-based self-assessments and inventories, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Strengths Finder, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), DISC or a 360-degree feedback instrument like the Leadership Effectiveness Inventory (LEI). These assessments will increase your insight of your personality type, strengths and blind spots.
- Enroll in a competency-based leadership development program through your organization. Inquire with your direct supervisor or training department to learn what’s available.
- Invest in your learning through informal channels.
- Join organizations that offer leadership and mentoring opportunities such as Young Government Leaders (YGL) or the Partnership For Public Service.
- Do journaling exercises like this values clarification self-reflection exercise to gain awareness and be in alignment with your values.
- Listen to podcasts on leadership topics.
Takeaway: Lead now!
Hill underscored the importance of changing your mindset about leadership in that anyone can lead from their current position. Leadership is not about titles. It’s about attitude and behavior.
Here are four ways you can lead now:
- Lead by example. Demonstrate leadership from wherever you are today. Hill recommended identifying three ways you lead by example and one or two ways you may be setting a poor example. Then develop an action plan for improvement.
- Practice giving and receiving feedback. You can strengthen this skill by asking for feedback regularly and by sharing your insights with others openly and honestly.
- Focus on interpersonal relationships. She advises taking a mutual accountability approach to reinforce transparency and help resolve conflict in the workplace.
- Identify and strengthen your supervisory skills using OPM’s 10 Competencies for Supervisory Work as a guide.
Let’s face it, no one wants to follow a leader who lacks self-awareness. How can you lead others if you can’t lead yourself? Following these key strategies and best practices will prepare you well to succeed now and with each new role you take.
Kima Tozay is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and subject matter expert on Counseling and Advocacy programs in her role at Navy Fleet & Family Support Center, Everett, Washington. Her government career spans 15 years, starting in the Navy. Kima completed her Masters in Social Work degree from the University of Washington and has held positions with the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) and the Army. Kima’s greatest career accomplishment is receiving the Federal Employee of the Quarter Award for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. She earned an Executive Leadership Certificate from Graduate School, USA. You can connect with Kima on LinkedIn.
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