Managers and supervisors have always faced a challenging task. Not only are they expected to deliver great work results, they also have to build close relationships with their subordinates.

Participants in my leadership and supervisory management workshops, often ask me these questions:

* How can I balance management’s wants with my employees’ needs?”

* How can I foster better relationships with my staff, especially the old timers?” 

* How can I handle conflicts?”

The answers are:

Strike a balance  

An effective supervisor is able to balance the demands of management and the wants of the employees. Your company’s management needs you  to deliver great team results while the employees want more pay and better bonuses. This is what you can do: 

* Build your reputation as a supervisor who can deliver results.

* Share your challenges and concerns with the management for “crazy” goals and targets. Where necessary, ask for additional manpower, time and resources.

* Help your employees to perform better. Tell them that with better results, you can help them to ask for more pay and better bonuses.

Build great relationships

You need to “build bridges” and foster closer relationships with your staff in order to maximise team performance. Try these three strategies:

* Arrange lunch and coffee sessions with individual employees more regularly. 

* Listen more to your employees. 

* Help them when they have trouble at work. Give good advice and deliver pep talks.

For the younger supervisors who have better academic credentials and relatively less work experience, be more humble and learn from the older subordinates, at least for a start.

Tap on their vast experience, work on their concerns and collaborate for better team results. Befriend the older employees and being interested in their family, hobbies and sports.

Mature supervisors should not see younger staff as troublemakers simply because they are more vocal and less obedient. The younger staff, particularly Generation Y employees, think and behave differently.

Talk to them to understand their dreams and aspirations. Get their “buy-in” for your views and take action. Give challenging assignments to stretch them to their fullest potential. Be a mentor to younger staff to help them to grow personally and professionally.

Constructive management

An experienced supervisor asked me how he could resolve the ongoing conflicts between two employee cliques in his department — the “Old Timers” and the “Newcomers”. He told me that his staff behaved much like warring tribes, refusing to work together for the common good.

I advised him to follow the five-step approach in the conflict management process:

Step 1: Identify the underlying root causes of the conflict.

Step 2: Talk to the conflicting parties separately to understand their views and perspectives of the conflict.

Step 3: Invite both parties to a mediation session.

Step 4: Address the root causes and mediate with both parties for a win-win outcome.

Step 5: Get them to follow the agreed new work arrangements.

Some time later, he had managed to “break the wall” between the cliques and had got them to work together.           

Managers and supervisors have to strike a balance between work effectiveness and people management for greater success at work. They need to assert themselves to get work results, while connecting and caring for their employees at the same time. Achieving that fine balance is what is needed for leadership and supervisory effectiveness.