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Responsibility, Accountability and Authority for the First Line Supervisor

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Supervising on the Line by Gene Gagnon and revised by enVista CEO Jim Barnes is a book that seeks to inform the reader on how to lead, manage, communicate, direct and measure their associates. Supervising on the Line can act as a handbook for ready reference, able to help you meet the management challenges you face on a day-to-day basis. Last time in this series, we introduced Supervising on the Line and covered Chapter 1: The Role of the First Line Supervisor. In this post, we’ll cover Chapter 2.

A supervisor who doesn’t understand his job is out on a limb. And, if management hasn’t provided the information the supervisor needs to effectively carry out his job, they’re sawing off the branch the supervisor is out on. When a warehouse worker transitions to a supervisory role, job definition is the first tool necessary The best way to define a job’s role is to understand your Responsibility, Accountability and Authority.

Responsibility

Unless a supervisor understands management’s objectives, he cannot do a good job. Responsibility is the “what” and the “why” of the job. Agreeing on job objectives may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked when (and if!) managers and supervisors have a discussion. Every supervisor should have this talk with their manager. Prepare a list of items you believe are your responsibility and let the manager compare them with their expectations. Understanding your responsibilities is important for those times when you find yourself in a precarious situation and you are not sure how to respond.

Accountability

While your responsibility will likely not change over time, what you are accountable for over a certain period certainly might. For example, it might also be a supervisor’s responsibility to increase productivity, but he might take different steps to meet that objective year to year. Accountability is taking action toward meeting or exceeding management’s business objectives. It is important to take ownership of your work by applying your job to overall company objectives. From the management perspective, supervisors need to know how goals apply to their area. Having an accurate picture of accountability, in the form of clearly defined goals, is also important. It’s not enough to know that you need to process “more” orders in the warehouse. One more order is “more,” but very likely not enough to satisfy management’s expectations.

Authority

A first line supervisor has to take the first step when it comes to defining his job. Knowing the limits of their authority is a key aspect of this. Make sure you have the authority to fulfill the responsibilities and goals set by management. If you don’t see a clear path to how to accomplish one of your goals based on your authority, it is time to meet again with a manager to redefine your job. Failing to use your authority can be as negative as overstepping your bounds.

Stay tuned to enVista’s blog for more from Supervising on the Line. If you can’t wait and want to see for yourself what the book has to offer, click here.

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