Tag Archives: team leader

The Difference From Team Leader to Supervisor

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was just promoted from team leader to supervisor. My boss told me not to worry, things wouldn’t be that different. With all due respect, I think things will be different, I just don’t know in what way?

Response:
The biggest difference is the time span of your goals and objectives. As a supervisor, your focus will shift to the future.

As the team leader of your crew, you thought about what needed to be produced this week. As a new supervisor, you have to think about the schedule for two weeks, three weeks or more, depending on the variables in your system. It’s not just people, also, materials (with lead times), equipment, preventive maintenance, consumables, logistics, raw material specs, system constraints, first piece inspections. Your job will require more prep and staging time.

All of this requires you to think further into the future, using your own discretionary judgment to make decisions and solve problems.

Is It a Real Issue?

“How do you change the mental state of a group?” I repeated. “What do you think is slowing down the pace of the team?”

“Based on what we have talked about, the reason the team is slow-walking the project is that they don’t believe in it, and that if it fails, they will get the blame,” Darla explained.

“How will you explain that to the team?” I asked.

“You want me to confront the team, tell them they don’t believe in the project?” Darla pushed back.

“The most effective managers are not those who tell people what to do. The most effective managers are those who ask the most effective questions. Ask a question.”

Darla composed herself. “Wouldn’t it be better to talk to each team member privately. This discussion is a little scary. If I talk to the group together, they might gang up on me. They might all walk out, quit.”

“Every issue that affects the group, must be dealt with by the group. Your job as the leader is simply to put the issue on the table.”

“I have to tell you,” Darla looked uncomfortable. “My stomach is upside down just thinking about this.”

“If your stomach is upside down, then you know you are dealing with a real issue.”

Looks Good on Paper

I was looking at Sydney’s org chart. I could see a familiar pattern.

“We have been working really hard on this,” Sydney explained. “Every manager knows who reports to them, so there should be no confusion. And every direct report has a manager.”

“I am just looking,” I said, “how many layers, or levels do you have on this chart?”

“That’s what took so much time,” Sydney replied. “We have 112 employees, in twelve layers. Pretty good job, neat and tidy.”

“Well, it all fits on one page,” I observed, “even though it’s a big piece of paper. Where did you get this printed?”

Sydney laughed. “The problem is, it looks good on paper, but not so good in reality.”

“Oh?” I said, with a diagnostic look on my face.

“Yes, like the guys on the shop floor. They all report to a Team Leader, Justin, best equipment operator we have. We told Justin, from now on, if they have a problem, you help them solve it. If they have a question, answer it. And at the end of the day, all the work needs to get done.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

Sydney took a breath. “The guys are now complaining that Justin is breathing down their necks. They say they already know how to do their jobs and that if they have a real problem, Justin is no help, they have to go to the supervisor, anyway. What’s worse, even Justin’s productivity is suffering, eight out of the last ten production days have been short to the work orders.”

“So, what do you think you are going to do?”