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Transitions are Hard

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Transitions Are Hard

I recently spent a half day with a group of construction professionals who were in similar transitions. They made the move from individual contributor or team member to first-time supervisor. There were some common routes to being a supervisor. Some had been working on field crews and wanted to go into management. Some had recent degrees in construction management and a couple had made the switch from contractor to client. They are smart, accomplished, and engaged but never had formal exposure to the training or support around supervision skills.

As with many of the articles I have offered in this space, the topics we discussed centered on communications as a capstone concept. We got into the tricky conversations they struggle with, the need to give effective feedback, the ability to motivate, and how they can coach their team members and each other. In all fairness, this was definitely a skill issue in the “skill vs will” debate. They just didn’t know and, like us all, we generally don’t know what we don’t know. An openness to learning and understanding the “why” and the “how” made my job that much easier.

I can imagine some of the concerns they voiced are like those you may experience. 

Ø  How do I supervise people who were, until recently, my peers? 

Ø  I have more experienced people on my team, how can I set direction for them? 

Ø  How can I establish my credibility when I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing? 

Ø  I feel alone and my manager does not seem to have time for me. 

Age, skill, and ability can work for and against. Honestly, I can’t solve this in the length of a single article or series of articles. I can shed a little light on the issue that I hope will be helpful.

You are not alone. Even if it feels that way. You have resources available to you, but you have to ask for support. It may be internal to your company or from outside places like NAWIC. You have to make the commitment to ask. Everyone is busy AND people will make the time to help if asked. Asking for help – perhaps the most important lesson I can leave with you and my group of new supervisors – is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of confidence. It demonstrates a desire to learn. It sends the message that other opinions are important and valuable.

Transitions really are a challenge. We feel uneasy as if we are walking on marbles until we get our equilibrium. And, you know what? As soon as you navigate the new role there will be something else to overcome. The skill to address those challenges head-on, openly, effectively, and honestly will be a lifelong skill no matter how high or far you go in your career.

As always, I am always willing to help. Just ask. You can reach me at

Michael Riegel


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