5 Key Behaviors To Go From ResLife Supervisor to Leader: Communication is Key

This is a five part series based on best practices for supervisors. Each of these principles on their own can achieve great leadership, but all five will ensure it.

1. Personalize Your Supervisory Style
2. Communication is Key
3. Know Who Works For You
4. Acknowledge Their Work
5. Respect Their Expertise

Communication is Key

We all know that communication is an important part of the supervisor-supervisee relationship. Making sure everyone’s expectations around communication are expressed and understood will help this very essential aspect of everyone’s job work well. In addition to learning about your employees preferred supervision style, as discussed in part one of the series, ask about their communication preferences and needs. Knowing how often they would like to communicate as well as what mode of communication works best for them is very valuable. 

Most jobs center around routine procedures and special projects. Those two facets of a job might need very different amounts of interactions. Discussing how often and at what points updates should happen is key. Your employees may find multiple check-ins during a routine aspect of the job to be micromanaging while others may welcome the reassurance that they’re performing correctly.  During a project employees may find numerous check-ins disruptive while others may feel reassured by being able to share their progress on a regular basis.

In addition to how often your employees like to communicate, knowing their desired modes of communication is crucial. Some of your employees are better able to express themselves in person because they are better able to pick up on things like tone and body language. They may want to have quick 5 minutes meetings, or at least a phone call to go over things rather than emails. 

Some may prefer emails because they feel they can express themselves better in text but need a more substantial method than texting. They may also feel more secure in what they’re doing if they have something to reference regarding instructions or decisions. Some people may be more adept at G-chat, GroupMe or other text-based apps. This could be because they are not apt at visualizing potential concerns, and they tend to have questions or suggestions “in the moment” and would like to be able to communicate as they work.

The Challenge for Residence Life Professionals

For those who have Live-in/on positions and supervise RAs there can be an additional roadblock to good communication. Since Residence Life is a twenty-four hour a day department, issues may arise after 5pm and on weekends. RAs, especially new RAs, may have questions or concerns that they feel need immediate answers, leading them to reach out to their supervisors. 

Live-in/on professionals need to have strong boundaries to keep up their work/life balance. A large part of creating those boundaries is expressing your availability to your staff during those times. Since there is typically an on-call rotation in Residence Life, there is always an option for your employees to get the assistance they need. Because of this you can have a strict no call or text policy after hours; or you may allow texts up to a certain time like 8pm; or you may be fine with texts or calls at any time. 

All of these guidelines are valid. What matters is that you are clear with your staff about what your boundaries are, then find constructive ways to reinforce those boundaries if they are compromised. This can be difficult because Residence Life is a 24/7 department, we may feel that we need to be more available outside of work hours than other departments. However, if you have created communication plans that work well for both you and your employees, you should be able to keep your personal time while keeping your area running efficiently.  

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