How I became a better supervisor by asking for help

Follow this plan of action to start building a community of support


This article is reprinted with permission from the Dychelon blog

As a young and newly minted supervisor on the Sheriff’s Department, I was placed into a position to supervise a classmate from my academy class, my former training officer and one of the most tenured people at the patrol station. My total experience as a supervisor was about three months. Fortunately, I had been in a military program as a teenager, and I was able to use some of the leadership concepts I had been taught in my new position.

While I thought I was moving myself and the team in the right direction, there was conflict. I was the new supervisor, there was a new mission and a different sense of accountability. It was a difficult process at times, but ultimately, the team became cohesive and high functioning. Success…sort of.

If you can put your ego aside and reach out for help, you will be a better supervisor for it.
If you can put your ego aside and reach out for help, you will be a better supervisor for it. (Pixabay)

Put ego aside

While my team ultimately reached its potential, the path to that goal was problematic. I was a new supervisor with new expectations. My team was rooted in the status quo where they had done good work, but their willingness to change direction was resistive. While we were able to work out our team and individual problems, one of the largest mistakes I made was to believe that I was the only supervisor experiencing problems with their team. My ego and sense of failure kept me from reaching out to other peer supervisors for help.

Eventually, I reached out for advice. I explained to a peer the problems that I was having with my team, the frustrations that I felt and my sense of failure as a supervisor.

After listening carefully, my peer replied, “Is that all you’re dealing with?”

He told me my team problems were reasonable for a new supervisor and the number of problems I was experiencing was low. I felt a huge sense of relief. I was experiencing problems that others were dealing with and I was not the only supervisor having problems. I also received some good advice about how to address my team's issues.

Lesson learned, put your ego aside and reach out for help, guidance, advice, or whatever you want to call it. Just reach out. You will be a better supervisor for doing so.  

It is a lesson that I have embraced through the decades to make my efforts better. By reaching out to others, I was able to become a better supervisor. Now I reach out to others to become a better trainer and course developer. The successes I have experienced with my Team Building course, Workplace Harassment and several others is directly related to reaching out for input and critique. It is not easy, but it is necessary.

Reach out to experts

The people I reach out to are experts in what they do, offer genuine critique and are looking out for my best interests in delivering training content. We share a common goal of providing good effective training that teaches a skill, reinforces a behavior, or both. They are an invaluable part of the creative building process. They make your classes better, and you strengthen your relationships with them.

As professionals, we build a community by networking with each other. Connect with those outside of your profession or industry. Some of the best leadership ideas came from people I spoke to who were not in law enforcement. They have a different point of view, which is their strength. Embrace that different perspective. Reach out. Get out of your comfort zone. Enable others to do the same.

Here is a plan of action to start this process:

Identify one area of your supervision regimen that needs improvement:

  • Start with a manageable problem.
  • Move to more intricate problems as you embrace this process.
  • Remember that small enhancements lead to significant improvements.

Connect with three people who may help you address the problem:

Honestly describe your problem and ask for a solution:

  • Tell the person that you want their honest critique.
  • Do not debate the critique.
  • Ask questions only to clarify the critique.

Be thankful and appreciative of the person’s efforts to help you:

  • They are helping you.
  • You are getting better by reaching out.
  • You are building a community.

Community building is an exercise I am fully embracing. You should too. Connect with those within your industry, but reach out to those who are outside of it too. The diversity of perspectives will make you a better leader.

NEXT: Improve your leadership skills by taking Police1's active supervision challenge 

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