What do We Need to Know About Supervising Staff? (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Stephanie Hanson, Mar 17, 2010 3 comments

A few weeks ago, I was out to dinner with some colleagues and friends. We are all emerging leaders who work in the nonprofit arts field, for very different types of organizations and at various job levels within our organizations. During the course of our dinner, one of my friends brought up the subject of supervising staff. She had a question related to her personal experience supervising her own staff, and wanted to get our input. After we had all discussed my friend’s question, and gave a few tidbits of advice, I thought the conversation may morph into a different subject. However, I was surprised to find out that ALL of us had a story related to supervising staff—some good experiences, some not so good experiences. 

The next week, my colleague sat down in my office and said he was out to dinner with some arts friends, and the same subject of supervising staff came up.

Therefore—the seed for this blog post had been planted.

In my current role at Americans for the Arts, I don’t supervise staff. However, I have supervised three fabulous interns, and feel like I’ve been incredibly lucky with the interns that I’ve worked with. At the same time, I have been a part of the decision process for what interns we hire, so I have had a pretty large role in selecting who I work directly with. We don’t always have this luxury when supervising staff. If you’re relatively new in your organization, many of your staff were probably already in place before you got on board. 

Regardless of whether you directly hired your staff, or whether they were in place before you came on board, we all have our own styles of working, supervising, and of wanting to be managed.  For example, I am pretty set in my ways that I like to check in with my intern once per week, give him or her projects to work on, follow up on open-ended projects, and answer any questions.  My door is always open for them to pop in throughout the week if other questions come up, and I think we all love it when interns or staff comes to us to ask for more work.  I trust my interns to do the work they were hired to do, and try not to micromanage their process as long as we ultimately get to the end result of what we’re looking for in a timely manner.  However, not everyone likes to work this way.
What do you do if you have a staff member who works in a complete opposite way than you do?  Or – what if you have multiple staff – all of whom will likely have different work styles and preferences for checking in?  (This is a situation similar to one of my dinner companions).  Another scenario – how do you handle supervising staff that are significantly older than you are?
And because it seems crazy to ask more than four questions in one blog post – my last question – Should supervisor training be a standard part of our higher education and professional development?  Do arts administrators need to learn how to supervise?  (Okay – I broke my own rule - that was five questions).

Leave your comments and tell me what you think.  As Local Arts Agency Services thinks about developing professional development webinars, future convention sessions, and workshops, we want to hear from you!

3 responses for What do We Need to Know About Supervising Staff? (from Arts Watch)


asebourn@gmail.com says
March 20, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I would agree. I think that supervisor training (even if it is in-house) is a good idea to keep things efficient and to set certain standards, while also acknowledging that people have different managing styles.

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Carrie says
March 17, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I have more experience being supervised than supervising, but I think most people who were trained to do other work really well (in my case, social work, education, and the arts) are often terrible managers. Professional development for people thrown into management positions is a great way to lower staff turnover (a big money drain in some small organizations) and to keep things running smoothly so that organizations can really work to their potential.

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Ms. Rachel Ciprotti says
April 05, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I think good supervisor training is hard to come by, but I'd love to take it! Being an effective manager is one of the most difficult things to do in the workplace.

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