In small business, we tend to give out titles with aplomb. You can be a manager. You’re a director. You are a vice president. When there are few levels to differentiate between, it seems meaningless to attach a lot of weight to a title.
Your receivables clerk comes to you and says “I think I could get more respect when I collect if I was the Accounting Manager.” You agree. What harm is int it?
After a couple of years he or she has a review. “I’ve been the Accounting Manager for three years. I feel like I’m going nowhere. I would like to be promoted to Controller.” What’s the difference? Should you dole out the Controller title?
So how do you discern the difference between a supervisor and a real manager? Each directs the work of other people. Both have responsibilities. Is it just a matter of degree? I know construction supervisors who oversee millions of dollars and scores of employees and subcontractors. I know managers in small companies with just a couple of direct reports, yet they are as talented in managing as anyone. What is the difference?
Here’s a quick measure. When something goes wrong, whose fault is it?
The supervisor says “It’s their fault. They didn’t do what I told them to do.”
The manager says “It’s my fault. They didn’t do what I told them to do.”
The supervisor sees his job as telling people what they should do. The manager knows that his job is getting them to do it.