Supervisory Relationships at the Next Level

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Stephanie J. Bannister, PhD (She/Her/Hers) Assistant Vice Provost Student Success, Kansas State University

September 6, 2019

Supervision at the senior level takes on a different feel not only for the supervisor but for those being supervised. All too often we stay stuck in an archaic way of viewing this relationship. Senior leaders sit waiting for those in traditional authority positions to offer direction, input, counsel and support. Newsflash – executive level leaders do not have all the answers. Leaders at the next level are looking for team members who are solution oriented and come to the table with ideas and a strong sense of organizational needs. The sooner we get out of this looped thinking and realize the answers are within, the more successful our supervisory relationships will be. What follows are ten tips to take your supervisory relationship to the next level!

  1. Chart your own course – come with an agenda on topics you need input, direction or context on. 
  2. Don’t expect the answers to come from on high – leaders are looking for problem-solvers, be willing to come and do the work. 
  3. Ask for what you need – you will know when and if you need a safety net, so be sure your supervisor knows. 
  4. Read the room – understand the further you go in your career the more your supervisor will be dealing with at their level, so get a sense for where their energy is before leaping in. 
  5. Be authentic and respectfully speak the truth. 
  6. Be open to vulnerability – we all lace up our shoes one at a time, so trust your humanity and that of your supervisor. 
  7. Engage in meaningful conversation, not just what you think the other wants to hear – meaningful conversation generates change or creates new knowledge. 
  8. You know you, so do you – when I say, "be gone, take care of you" I trust my staff to do so. 
  9. Understand the on-stage presence versus behind the curtain – when on stage you are representing your department, behind the curtain is where the growing can happen. 
  10. Always end with, "is there anything I can do to support you or our department?" – this is the hallmark of a servant leader and often leads to amazing stretch assignments! 

Stephanie J. Bannister, PhD (She/Her/Hers)
Assistant Vice Provost Student Success
Kansas State University


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