It’s quite an honor to be chosen to supervise work you’re not familiar with. The assignment shows that management has a great deal of faith in your skills as a supervisor — so much so that, despite what you don’t know, they’re confident you’ll get the job done.
Of course you get butterflies, and the new staff is looking to you for direction and leadership. And some of them may be thinking, “What do you know about what we do?” But here’s your opportunity to prove to your organization — and yourself — that you have what it takes to be an effective manager:
— Clarify your responsibilities. Have a thorough discussion with your boss about what needs to happen in the area you’ll be taking over. Make sure your assumptions are in line with your boss’s expectations, and that you understand how your success will be measured.
— Let your employees help you. Ask them how things normally get done, what common problems are, and how they usually handle them. Of course, you’ll balance this information with your own observations and judgment, but in a completely new situation, your employees are your best guide.
— Ask plenty of questions. Get an old-fashioned pad and pen and whenever you have a question about the operation, write it down. Get answers from staff, your boss and other supervisors. Write down what they say. A picture of what you should be doing will soon emerge.
— Keep an open mind. It’s natural to see similarities to your previous assignment, and you may be tempted to apply the lessons you learned there. But if you resist that temptation and keep an open mind, this situation may teach you some new (and quite possibly better) ways of doing things.
— Give yourself time. It may take several months to really get the hang of things and begin to feel comfortable with your new assignment. Don’t rush it. Slow and steady wins the race, especially when you’re racing in unknown territory.