I'm currently facing the strong possibility that I will be in a more supervisory role in my office than I was previously before.

While my skills as a developer have been strengthened very neatly by the job experience that I've had, I'm worried that I haven't quite developed as much as a supervisor - I can guide people in doing tasks and prioritizing what needs to be done, and I can find resources when I need them for tasks we aren't able to handle, but I don't really have the 'edge' of being able to make tough decisions as a supervisor.

I've recently taken a course in how to gauge my own supervisory skills, but seeing how this might become pertinent even sooner than I expected - what are some steps I could take in helping myself transition into a supervising role?

closed as off-topic by jimm101, The Wandering Dev Manager, JasonJ, gnat, scaaahu Oct 25 '16 at 3:48

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    Have you ever worked for a supervisor? Did you notice what she/he did? – WorkerDrone Oct 24 '16 at 18:24
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    Are you sure you want to take the managerial track in your career? It is an important decision to make and it is not the only path upward for you as a developer. – Lumberjack Oct 24 '16 at 20:25
  • @Lumberjack True, I might not actually wind up being a 'manager', but I suspect I will, based on my current organization. I could change organizations of course, but I'm making plans for the current state of affairs. – Zibbobz Oct 25 '16 at 12:55

I think the foundation for all of it should be this:

Be the kind of supervisor you would like

Spend time thinking of all of the good supervisors and bad supervisors you've had. List what you liked and why. And do the same with the dislikes. Examine those who were successful and unsuccessful and do the same.

  • Lead, preferably by example.
  • Remember that your job isn't to be friends with them. That'll be tough.
  • Friendship is friendship and business is business
  • Make sure that you go out of your way to neither show favoritism or have people believe that you do or will.
  • Project management classes
  • People management books

Remember, management is a skill all its own, it's not natural for most people. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your employees. Have their backs even if it means you take a hit. Never throw anyone under the bus and take responsibility when your people screw up. Try to handle problems internally but address them up the chain when it becomes necessary.

This is just for starters. :)

  • 5
    +1 Great answer. Please forgive me for throwing a little caution in here. Be careful when you act in the role of "the kind of supervisor you would like." There are times when you will need to have an uncomfortable conversation with a direct report. You need to share criticisms with your team. If they don't understand where they made a mistake, they will miss the opportunity to improve. Don't point out every single mistake, but don't be so nice that you never correct an error either. – Lumberjack Oct 24 '16 at 20:29
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    “Lead, preferably by example” — although I believe that leading by telling people explicitly what you want them to do (rather than by doing what you want them to do, and silently hoping they’ll copy you) can be effective too. – Paul D. Waite Oct 24 '16 at 20:43

The first, most critical, thing you can do is start reading about office politics. A supervisor who is inept at politics harms the people working for him as well as himself. You need to understand politics to get your people the raises they deserve, to keep the projects on track, etc. You need to start building organizational allies.

Some reading on communication styles is helpful as well. Deborah Tannen has some good books on this subject.

Getting to know the people on the business side that you are developing products for is very helpful. You need to balance their needs with the team's ability to fulfill them, so you really need to understand where they are coming from. If your users are outside the company, you need to find a way to connect with those people as well to start to understand their perspective.

Some technical conferences also have soft skills training. Wouldn't hurt to attend one of those and attend some of teh soft skills sessions.

Not sure how to prep you for making difficult decisions that affect the lives of people who work for you. All I can say is that through the years, I have noticed that this is one of the big make or break things about a good supervisor and that putting off a negative decision tends to make it worse in the long run. Telling the client that you won't meet the deadline is much worse after you have missed it than weeks ahead. Telling someone they are being fired is much worse that telling them they have a performance issue and exactly what they need to overcome it and then helping them do so.

I have noticed that a team will react better to negative news from a supervisor they trust to look out for them with the people above their group.

It would also be helpful to get with your HR department and get training on the processes you need to know about as a supervisor including such things as time reporting, dealing with performance problems, how to do performance evaluations and set annual goals, etc. Know the process for dealing with a performance problem for instance can help keep you from doing the wrong thing before you ask for HRs help.

  • Ugh...office politics. I hate office politics even now. This...isn't going to be pleasant. – Zibbobz Oct 24 '16 at 18:39
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    Read about it, office politics do not have to be unpleasant or involve behaving badly. – HLGEM Oct 24 '16 at 18:40
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    Can you recommend any reading on the topic of Office Politics? – Lumberjack Oct 24 '16 at 20:30

In addition to Christopher's great answer, I'd suggest looking for a mentor in this respect ASAP. Approach someone in your organization who you feel has excellent managerial skills. Be open about your situation and ask them for their input both for preparation and execution. They will be able to guide you in both how to be a supervisor at all and how to be a supervisor within your organization.

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