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Dear Workforce How to Lead When I’m Not The Group’s Supervisor

Clarify expectations. Ask probing questions without making your boss defensive.
May 16, 2001
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QDear Workforce:

A recent promotion has caused me to move from a district office to our national headquarters. In this new role I am expected to be a group leaderand also be responsible for the group's performance. Unfortunately theorganizational chart doesn't appear to support my position, since there are nolinks between the group and myself.

To give you an idea of my predicament, I recently wanted to sharemanagement's vision and expectations with the group. As I am not theirsupervisor I have been told not to do this. It appears that the group'ssupervisor and I have a different set of expectations. Expectations aside, howcan I make this situation work?

- Nationwide trainer, Internet services company, Japan

A Dear Trainer:

You do have a challenge. It is difficult to manage in a situation in whichpeople have different understanding of responsibilities. Clarify expectationswith your boss, who I assume was the person who originally told you that youhave responsibility for the group. Ask the following questions:

  • For what part of the group's performance am I responsible?

  • For what is the group's supervisor responsible?

  • What responsibility does that supervisor have to me? Am I his or hersupervisor? If not, who is? Why is it someone other than me?

  • What has this supervisor been told about my role?

  • How do you see this person and I working together?

These questions ought to raise the issues that need to be raised. It isimportant that you approach the conversation with the intent to understand whatyour boss is thinking. Do not approach him or her as if the person has donesomething really strange or stupid. You do not want to put anyone on thedefensive. You want to understand what is expected of you and get a clearerunderstanding of who is responsible for what between you and the supervisor.

SOURCE: Susan B. Gebelein, executive vice president for Personnel DecisionsInternational, and author of PDI's Successful Manager's Handbook, Feb. 26, 2001.

LEARN MORE: Other articles, tips and assessments on managementskills.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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