Is He or She the “Right Supervisor?” – Find Out Who They Are

Would you marry a person after only meeting him / her one or two times?  While there are a few of you romantics out there who might profess “love at first sight” as a response, the vast majority of you would look at me as if I was a 4-headed intergalactic transplant.  “Of course not!” would be your reply. 
Yet as I pointed out in last week’s blog, despite spending the majority of our waking hours at work, it’s amazing how disjointed and disconnected the interview process is. What should be a relatively straightforward process for a hiring manager and candidate to determine their compatibility with one another usually ends in short, formal interview questions about key work behaviors, but not much else. The interview process rarely yields the information needed for both parties to logically figure out how well they will actually get along with one another. 
What does Scripture have to say about this?  Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.”  At the other end of the spectrum, Colossians 3:13 advises, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”    
I could pull many more Scriptures with advice or commands about our overall behavior and motives of our hearts. And that doesn’t even include addressing common management issues like micromanagement, accountability, communication patterns, performance assessment, and the dreaded organizational matrix (in addition to alignment and clarity which I hit in last week’s blog). Whew! There are quite a few areas to check out!  

Four Ways To Prepare

So where do you even begin? 
First, keep prayer as a top priority throughout your transition. Ask God for wisdom, discernment, and illumination about who your new supervisor will be. It’s not a secret to Him, and He will guide you through the process. 
Second, mentally prepare yourself before you enter the interviews that they are NOT structured to provide you with the information you need to determine compatibility. I wish it weren’t so, but it’s just the way it is. 
Third, get comfortable being uncomfortable about asking more questions than you have in past interviews. I’m not suggesting you go overboard here, but a mere 5-10 minutes at the end of an interview is simply not enough time to extract the information you need to make a well-informed decision.  
Fourth, thoughtfully spend some time googling and thinking through questions you can ask the hiring manager to get to know more about them as a person, their supervisory habits, and their perspectives on future development. What makes them tick?  What management habits do you love or hate? What questions could you ask a potential supervisor to politely and tactfully flush out possible landmines? 
For example, let’s say you hate to be micromanaged? You might simply ask, “How would you describe your management style?” to get the flow going. After listening carefully to his / her answer, you may next ask, “How do you ensure your department stays high in quality output without you micromanaging people?” His / her answer to that may lead to a third or fourth question. Ideally, your goal is to engage in meaningful dialogue with the hiring manager about topics that matter without stilted ping pong type, back and forth questions and answers that are more transactional in nature. 

Find Out Who They Are

Reflect back again to a potential spouse and the many questions you’d ask one another and the time you’d spend together to determine compatibility.  I know that’s not practical to duplicate, but the more time you spend, and more questions you get answered, the better your odds are for an ongoing relationship that’s healthy and productive for both of you. You’ve got to find out who they are! 

Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People. 

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