7 Realities I Wish I’d Realized BEFORE Supervising People

7 Realities I Wish I’d Realized BEFORE Supervising People

Experience in the trenches gave me the knowledge and high-level skills that a university classroom and all the grit in the world couldn’t have equipped me with. Here are seven realities I wish I’d realized before supervising people. Whether you want to lead people or you currently lead people, hopefully, these lessons will prove valuable for you, too!

People are your greatest asset, not yourself.

All my life, I felt the one thing I could always count on was me. That mindset fed over into my early management career, but it didn’t serve me or my people well. Realizing a leader’s power is their team, not themselves, changed the whole game for me. I found more meaning and joy from my work because it was less about serving me and more about serving them. And, we all achieved better when I decided to become a leader, rather than just a manager. 

Micromanaging doesn’t work, but actively measuring performance does.

Without question, managers must know how their team is performing. Helicopter leaders and micromanagers might understand where the team stands, but they do not help the team grow. On the other hand, establishing mutually agreed upon performance measurements and review processes between you and the employee will ensure the work gets done correctly, efficiently, and with a positive vibe.  

Everyone will not like you, but you should work to make it work.

Showing up in my own natural way didn’t always work out well. I could be too abrasive for some, too peppy for others, and so on. Learning to adapt how I communicate with different people at different times was key to connecting with each person I was supervising. Connection is key to building trust. Trust is key to building a solid leader/employee relationship that performance, honesty and loyalty could be built upon.

It’s easy to give people the answer. It’s better to guide them on figuring it out on their own.

Freely giving people the answer to their questions often feels like you’re saving time in the moment. However, in the big scheme of things, you’re wasting time giving answers. I had to experience it to learn it, but once you put in the time to teach, guide, and empower your employees to find the correct answer and make solid decisions on their own, you save time and can achieve more as a team.

Everybody doesn’t want what you want — and yet they’re still a huge asset.

One employee and I were the same age, both female, from the same town, with similar backgrounds, etc. But why and how we showed up for work every day was very different. She wanted to come in, keep her head down, do her work, leave on time, and not have to think another thing about work once she left the building. No matter how much I tried to inspire her to rise up in the organization and take on additional responsibility…advancement and impact achieved through her professional life wasn’t what she wanted. I had to re-think my leadership strategy with her. Instead of working to give professional growth opportunities to her, I committed to making sure she had a set schedule and didn’t have to stay late. From there, she was always sold out for whatever was needed from her while she was at work. All leaders need great followers. I almost lost one until I realized that not everybody wants what I want and we must lead everyone differently.  

Figure out how you want people to see you, then live up to that expectation every day.

Have you ever thought you were pretty smart, quick on your feet, could trust your gut, or are really good with people? At one time or another, early on in my career, I thought some of those things about myself. And those were the boxes I checked that made me think I could be a great leader. It took a while, and it took some struggle along the way, but I realized it takes so much more than what I thought it would take to create strong connections and impactful influence. Very simply put, I’d rather be an intentional leader than an accidental success. Intentionality creates predictability. Predictability predetermines your future. I want a secure future, so learning to be intentional with every move I made as a leader has continued to serve me and my people well for years now.

Set crystal clear performance expectations upfront.

After trying and failing to become Mrs. Fix-It, I realized how powerful employee ownership can be. With employees quick to offer problems but no responsibility to develop solutions, try as I might, many employees simply had no stake in effectively executing a solution. That’s a problem on multiple levels. 

Once I correctly established a standard of communication where employees were consistently encouraged to speak up about issues — once they’d come up with a correct solution on their own — I found that many employees really took ownership to make sure the solution was implemented well and the issue was resolved. 

Let’s recap:

  1. People are your greatest asset, not yourself.
  2. Micromanaging doesn’t work, but actively measuring performance does.
  3. Everyone will not like you, but you should work to make it work.
  4. It’s easy to give people the answer. It’s better to help them figure it out and learn themselves.
  5. Everybody doesn’t want what you want and yet they’re still an asset.
  6. Figure out how you want people to see you, then live up to that expectation every day.
  7. Set crystal clear performance expectations upfront.

Did anything surprise you? Do you agree with these seven? If you’ve been supervising people for a while, what would you add to the list? Comment below!



Alyson Van Hooser
Author: Alyson Van Hooser
Alyson Van Hooser, Leadership Keynote Speaker, Trainer on Millennials, Gen Z & Women in Business With the grit that only comes from tough experiences, Alyson has learned a thing or two about personal and professional success. From her management experience with Walmart, as an elected city council member, bank manager — all before the age of 30 — Alyson has wisdom well beyond her years! Her podcast, Stake: The Leadership Podcast, offers a fresh perspective on leadership and helps multiple generations successfully work together! Connect with Alyson on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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