Ms. Spiritual Matters, March 2017

Dear Ms. Spiritual Matters,

At the beginning of the year, I was promoted to section chief. I supervise 12 men and women who must decide each day where to send our limited road vehicles to help with constantly changing conditions on major roadways. Our trucks respond to vehicular crashes and drivers in need of assistance.

The previous person in my position walked around to everyone’s desks and helped them decide what was needed in the area at the time they were responsible. She coached them, giving them an almost constant loop of feedback to determine which vehicles should go where. The employees were never far from her assistance. A few of us resented her constant interruption to our workflow. We knew we could handle full responsibility for doing our work.

At her retirement dinner, another section chief praised this woman’s ability to do so much for others within her day. What they did not take into account was that the woman worked another six hours after we all left in order to complete her paperwork. And, workers never felt the motivation to commit to doing their job the best they could. She was always there to help them.

I believe the men and women I will now supervise can learn how to do their tasks independently. I believe that it is my job to ensure they can do so. I am not going to oversee everything they do. I will spot check their work. I will hold them accountable to carry out their job duties while I do mine.

Any suggestions for how I can begin this supervision style where workers are each held accountable?


New Manager Dave


Dear Dave,

You hope to be a manager who encourages people to do their best. You want workers to be taught their jobs and then inspire them to work successfully. If you teach the skills needed for the job and check that the workers know what they need to know, you allow them room to meet work standards. This kind of supervision makes workers feel better about themselves than having a boss who hangs over their head just waiting to put in her two cents. Workers never feel they can do well when they are constantly corrected or prodded on with a “better” idea.

The manager who constantly oversees the work of people does not inspire. The manager who gives workers the tools to successfully and independently perform their roles inspires. This manager takes joy in seeing others you succeed. It is time you help the workers you supervise learn new habits.

I suggest that you explain your goals to the workers you supervise just like you are telling me:

Review role responsibilities with each worker.

Set up classes for workers who want more education specific to their needs.

Assign each worker responsibility for vehicles in separate areas of the county.

Teach workers that if they have a question about where or when to send a road truck out, they can press the conference call button to get ahold of you or an assigned substitute coworker for guidance.

Review the computer summaries of each worker and give feedback as needed.

Because you will be a supervisor who expects workers to succeed, they will work hard to meet this expectation. You will inspire them to be the best they can be and not interfere by walking around disrupting their work with your input.

Good wishes,

Ms. Spiritual Matters

Susan Schoenbeck holds Baccalaureate and Master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an experienced educator and teaches nursing students at Walla Walla University — Portland, Oregon campus.  She is an oblate of a Benedictine Monastery where she learned centering and contemplative meditation practices. She is author of the book, Zen and the Art of Nursing, Good Grief: Daily Meditations, and Near-Death Experiences: Visits to the Other Side.

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