Delegation of Responsibility

The New Supervisor

delegationSusan is the owner of a profitable and growing service business. She has worked hard to grow the business, spent many hours away from family and friends. She has done most of the business management herself, dedicating only minor clerical tasks to others. Her strengths are in sales and marketing, but she is frustrated by being constantly  pulled away to supervise the work crews and address customer complaints. The conclusion is that she must begin to delegate some of the supervisory responsibilities to someone else.

John is recognized in the company as the best worker. He has the widest range of skills and can take on the most challenging and difficult assignments. The staff, on a whole, like John and he is considered one of the boys.

One of the greatest challenges encountered by managers historically is the decision to promote the best worker to supervisor. The trail of those decisions is cluttered with successes and many failures. Care must be taken and a plan developed to ensure that a great worker wouldn’t be lost and a bad supervisor created.


The skills and talents which make a worker or technician productive are not supervisornecessarily the same skills which will make them  effective leaders or supervisors. Intelligence and knowledge of the technology is critical to be successful on the job. Communication, leadership, employee motivation, teaching and dedication are necessary to be an effective supervisor.

Let me provide you with an example from my experience. At one time, I was part of a product design and development department. On several occasions, the Vice-President would promote one of the best designers to group supervisor. What often happened is that each engineer in the group would initially meet with their newly appointed supervisor, they would discuss the projects that the engineer was in the process of developing. In this case, the newly appointed supervisor would critique the engineer’s work and insist on major modification of the design. Note the word insist. What transpired was that, in future meetings, the engineer would not present his solutions to the issue confronted in the design. He would expect the supervisor to direct the details of the work. Hence group productivity was reduced and projects began to fall behind schedule. Morale suffered and eventually the new supervisor was returned to his previous role as engineer.

Expectations-The Position Description

Have you ever heard it said that the person had been promoted to a new position and it just didn’t work out? Well whose fault was that? In part, it might have been the employee, but doesn’t the manager also have a responsibility? Let’s consider what we would suggest is the best practice, a clear discussion of expectations.

First start by writing a Position Description. That document will include all those tasks and responsibility which the supervisor must understand in their new role. For example:

  • Are they responsible to hire and fire?
  • Are they responsible for the quality of the work?
  • Are they responsible for productivity?
  • Are they responsible for training?
  • Are they responsible for morale?
  • ETC…

Once the Position Description is completed, there needs to be a face-to-face discussion between the manager and the new supervisor. Each point needs to be reviewed. Questions asked and answered. The purpose of the conversation is to assure a complete understanding and agreement by both parties.

The second part of the conversation needs to be an understanding of the timing of expectations.  There are responsibilities which can be taken on immediately and there are some which can only be assumed over time. For example, training or productivity may require time to evaluate and understand.

At the end, the new supervisor has a strong base upon which to start.

Delegation-Authority and Power

delegationWhen the manager announces to the company that the employee is now appointed to the supervisory role, he then has the authority to perform in the new role. But remember the day before he or she was just one of the boy’s/girls. They might like the new supervisor, but do they respect him. Without that respect there is no power.

A friend of mine is a Baptist minister and on one occasion we discussed the subject of power and authority. One would assume that the minister in the church is the person with the power to set the schedule and all other things administrative. He explained that he learned that when being assigned to a new church he had the authority, but he needed to develop the power. He only developed that power by determining where the power was and then developing trust. It usually was with key members of the Church Board or an important parishioner. Once that trusting relationship was developed, the minister began to gain power.

Remember that, previously to appointing the new supervisor, the recognized leader was the owner or manager. If they wanted to take a vacation, that was who they asked. If they had a quarrel with a fellow employee that was who they went to resolve. That’s who gave them a raise. Now the manager needs to redirect those interactions to the new supervisor. This new habit needs to be carefully navigated.


 With the decision to appoint the new supervisor, the manager assumes a new role as the coach. Remember that you cannot assume that the employee already has the skills and talent necessary to perform their new responsibilities. It might eventually suggest that they don’t and the coach may have to do some training. Wouldn’t it be foolish to assign  the responsibility and then let them figure it out?

Please consider us as a potential resource. We can assist  the manager is the selection of the new supervisor and the development of a plan for suggest. We might also use our TAN program to coach the new supervisor directly, with the manager’s indirect involvement.

We suggest its worth a conversation. (910) 575-1286