Five Things Every Supervisor Needs to Know

What makes a supervisor great? While there’s not a quick or simple answer to that question, there is a certain skill set learned through time and exposure, that makes supervisors more effective. But with increasing pressure being placed on supervisors to perform, organizations can’t afford a long learning curve for supervisory skills training. So as a trainer, what can you do to set your supervisors on a course for success?  
Here are five key skills to start: 
1. Guiding the Work
Supervisors are responsible for directing the work of their employees. The following points can help supervisors keep an eye on organizational demands while managing the day-to-day work of meeting group needs.

What to Do
  • Support organizational goals.
  • Get your employees involved in the planning process.
  • Act decisively.
  • Make plans with specific progress review dates.
What to Avoid
  • Telling employees that you disagree with management positions.
  • Consistently preparing detailed plans without consulting your employees.
  • Putting off making decisions until you’re sure that they’re perfect.
  • Failing to assign responsibility on tasks.
2. Organizing the Work
Supervisors need to constantly assess priorities and assign tasks because even the best made plans need attention as work progresses. It’s important to know how to delegate work to people and allocate resources to accomplish goals.
What to Do
  • Set schedules to meet the organization’s goals.
  • Use others’ expertise to organize when necessary.
  • Keep track of what’s going on in the informal organization.
  • Involve others if you have to reorganize.
What to Avoid
  • Accepting work changes without question.
  • Showing favoritism or fail to assign unpleasant tasks.
  • Failing to assign responsibility for necessary tasks.
  • Trying to have complete knowledge of all aspects of the work.
3. Developing Your Staff
People are the key to every supervisor’s success. Developing one’s staff requires understanding the abilities of employees as individuals, rather than as a group. Only then can supervisors assign tasks according to development needs.

What to Do
  • Delegate work that develops your employees’ skills.
  • Get to know employees on an individual basis.
  • Keep employees informed about the status of their requests.
  • Make your expectations for results clear when you delegate tasks.
What to Avoid
  • Completing tasks yourself because they require effort to teach others.
  • Treating employees as a group rather than as individuals.
  • Forgetting to tell employees about the status of their requests.
  • Delegating only to people who already have the skill for the task.
4. Managing Performance
It is critical for supervisors to track the performance of their employees and help them to meet both their personal objectives and those of the organization. 
What to Do
  • Track performance and provide feedback on a continual basis.
  • Judge performance by how it affects the organization.
  • Remain objective.
  • Get commitment from employees to improve their performance.
What to Avoid
  • Reviewing performance only once a year.
  • Judging employees before you talk with them about their performance.
  • Allowing yourself to become emotional.
  • Trying to fix every problem, no matter how small.
5. Managing Relations
A supervisor’s group is surrounded by other groups who affect its work. Managing relationships with other groups is critical to ensuring that the supervisor’s group is effective and that organizational goals are met.

What to Do
  • Keep other groups informed about your plans.
  • Consider others’ requests for help based on the needs of the organization.
  • Become generally familiar with other groups’ work.
  • Develop relationships with other supervisors.
What to Avoid
  • Trying to acquire resources by complaining about your group’s situation.
  • Trying to have complete knowledge of other groups’ work.
  • Turning down all requests for help that inconvenience your group.
  • Accepting work from other groups without question.
Assessing a supervisor’s skill level in these five dimensions is the first step toward improving performance. And it’s not just the green supervisor who can benefit from supervisory skills training. Even the most seasoned supervisors with lots of experience can benefit from reviewing the basics.
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