I recently had the privilege of co-facilitating a workshop specifically targeted at new supervisors. One of the things I love about those new to supervision is that they genuinely want to do the right thing but just have not received training on what that is. Sure, everyone had examples of good bosses to emulate and bad bosses to model the opposite behavior, but few had been given the opportunity to learn supervision in a formal way instead of via trial and error.

I wonder why that is. There is a host of research that indicates the front-line manager (supervisor) is the key factor in employee retention and departmental productivity, yet organizations routinely promote people with no supervisory experience and expect them to be successful at this key new component of their job.

Because organizations provide so little formal training, those new to supervision sometimes assume that there is a checklist or quick list of actions to take to make them competent in this role. What we tried to teach was that there is no cookie-cutter method to becoming a Superstar Supervisor; that it is as much about diligence and resilience as anything else, and that the STAR framework can serve as a guiding principle to frame behaviors and prioritize supervisory actions.

We attempted to carry the “SuperSTAR” theme throughout the workshop, and on the first day ordered “star-shaped pretzels” as our snack. What we received only loosely resembled a star and lovingly became known as the “octopus pretzels”! On day 2, we fared better, and our star-shaped donut actually looked like the intended design.

I think supervision is a lot like our snack offerings. You can be a supervisor in title only – just as the pretzels were minimally star-shaped, or you can actually learn to be impressive in that role as the giant star donuts were. You choose the amount effort you are willing to invest in the right resources to get you there.

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