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I was blessed (and sometimes cursed!) to be in management roles from the time I was a very young professional.  My own boss taught me the skills I needed to supervise and manage, partially through the use of classic social work supervision techniques and partially through watching him up close and mostly through direct mentor-ship.  I have cherished these experiences and tutelage my whole career and now I use those same philosophies and methodologies to coach executives, especially when it comes to supervision and management of development professionals.  What I learned:

  1. Meet with each of your direct reports ALONE on a consistent, regularly scheduled basis.  This practice encourages dialogue and helps you keep on top of professional development issues.
  2. An agenda should be prepared mutually before these meetings.
  3. Do not only meet with your direct reports when there is a “problem.”
  4. Keep the dialogue going from meeting to meeting.
  5. Document your ongoing issues and watch for change and growth.
  6. Acknowledge positive outcomes or point out weaknesses.
  7. Don’t wait too long to sever a relationship if it’s not working out for six months or more.
  8. Ask your direct report to not only bring tough issues (or complaints!) to the table but insist that they offer at least two solutions to each issue so you can get a better understanding of how this individual approaches problem solving – on what level, intensity and through what lens – their own, or in the best interests of the organization.
  9. If you are supervising someone whose core business is not your own – like a head of school or executive of a cultural or social service organization supervising a development professional – I believe it IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to manage that person with the same strength as you would manage an educator, a curator or a caseworker.  After all, you are a partner in financial resource development and it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to make that professional accountable to the organization and to the community.
  10. Age and gender should play no role in how you view supervision and management.  Even the most seasoned professional needs, wants and desires to be an effective manager.  Make it work.
  11. In the case of young professionals in the field of development, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to give that professional the benefit of your own experience – teaching them best practices, challenging them to be successful, supporting them, teaching time management and getting them training and coaching if your ability to build skills in the area of development is lacking.  (Maybe you should think about getting coached too!)
  12. The supervisory relationship can be close and sacred.  But you are not buddies or best friends.  You are not the mom or dad. Keep the boundaries clear!  But do enjoy the relationship.
  13. Show that you are interested in their success by taking an active role yourself in the development process.
  14. And last, but most importantly – teach your development professional the value and power of lay leadership by allowing them access to the board.  Include them in board meetings.  It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that your organization is financially viable.  It is your development staff who work with you to LEAD this effort.  Your lay leadership are your partners.  Don’t break the chain by keeping your development staff separate from your board.  If their skills are lacking in the area of board relations, get them the skill-building and coaching they need to succeed in this area.

Meet weekly.  Set the agenda before the meeting.  Listen.  Teach.  Process.  Adjudicate.  Assign.  Benchmark.  Invest in professional growth.  Maintain professional boundaries.

You will be a SUPERvisor!  And maybe…you will also meet your financial resource development goals more efficiently, consistently and perhaps you will exceed goals and expectations.

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