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Testimonies from Four 21st Century Supervisors

March 1, 2000
Related Topics: Featured Article
Excerpted with permission of the publisher Jossey-Bass, a Wiley company, from "The 21st Century Supervisor." Copyright (c) 2000 by Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer. This book is available at all bookstores, Amazon, and from the Jossey-Bass Web site at, or call 1-800-956-7739.

We all need encouragement from time to time, and supervisors are no exception. In your continuous development, visit other companies and see what other supervisors are accomplishing. Observing supervisors who practice people, technical, and administrative skills can be a great educational and motivational experience. A growing number of organizations are learning the benefits of exchanging experiences, ideas, and strategies with other companies and opening their doors to outside tourists.

Although we cannot physically transport you to organizations that are practicing twenty-first-century supervision, we can give you a taste of what it is like to visit other companies. You will meet four supervisors who share their experiences in the never-ending climb to become better supervisors. Their testimonies reflect the character, strength, and skills you must have to be a twenty-first-century supervisor.

These four supervisors do not consider themselves heroes or models. In fact, if you were to sit down with them yourself, you would find each of them very interested in asking about your experiences as a supervisor. They are continually on the lookout for new ideas to help them with their continual development. But don t be fooled by their humility. These individuals have set themselves apart from their peers by demonstrating actions and attitudes that truly reflect the twenty-first-century supervisor.

The four supervisors are at different stages in their careers. Greg is just beginning his career, but he brings to the supervisor role many skills that were once considered skills only managers possessed. Debbie has more than eleven years at the front lines and exemplifies what supervisors in the twenty-first century will look like. She is a living example of the specialized generalist. John has more than fifteen years experience as a supervisor.

However, only in the last three years has he truly realized the advantages of expanding his skills and knowledge. Finally, there is Gary, the most senior in age of the four. His transition from traditional to twenty-first-century supervisor reflects the rewards that often come to those who are students of the continuous improvement and team processes. Together, these four individuals represent a cross section of many supervisors across the United States.

As you read about these supervisors, keep in mind that they are very much like you. They come to work each day to face that day s opportunities, problems, and people. They share many of your same struggles and fears, and they ve all made some mistakes along the way. However, they continue to push ahead in their own education and development.

As you read their stories and the changes they made, think of similar opportunities for your personal improvement. Be encouraged by their words and experiences, and know that the same positive results can happen in your life if you persevere and focus on raising your effectiveness as a frontline leader.

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