Predicting if the New Supervisor will be Effective

I received an email yesterday that posed one question: “Tell me one thing that helps you predict whether or not a person will be an effective supervisor“ Here was my reply.

In my view the most important predictor of whether a person will be an effective supervisor is determined by how the supervisor views the job. What is his or her philosophy about that type of work? Ask “What is a supervisor supposed to do and why?

Then listen. What you want to hear is ….

First, let’s look at some replies I have received after asking that question. I have had clients tell me that the supervisor is the boss and he gets to decide who does what, how it’s done and when it should be done. I’m thinking micromanager here, but let’s not digress.

With this view, this supervisor won’t likely be able to develop a cohesive and positively productive group. If employees have to wait to be told to do something; and, other than finish tasks, that’s about all they get to do – wait to be told to do something – they are not likely going to feel comfortable taking initiative, or feel enthusiastic about the work. The employees may succeed at getting tasks done, but the supervisor’s lack of interest with the broader needs of employee may mean that he will face a high turnover rate or, at best, a poorly motivated group.

I have had responses to the ‘what is a supervisor’ question at the other extreme. “I’m there if they need me. My staff knows what to do.” This is the supervisor who doesn’t really want to lead, doesn’t want to get too involved with the team, its challenges and conflict. She hired good technicians and then forgot to lead the way. Her group may know their tasks and complete them well, but if there isn’t someone at the helm looking where the team needs to go, it feels a bit like being in a rudderless ship. Who can feel motivated if there isn’t a sense of direction? In this instance, there is a disconnect between the manager and her team. Ultimately, the employees may feel that their careers lack as much direction as the group in which they are working and they begin to blame the supervisor.

I have had supervisors say, “If I just work hard and set a good example, I believe I will be an effective supervisor.” Actually, I’ve had more clients start out our sessions framing that more like a question, “Why doesn’t my staff take my lead? I work hard, I’m nice to them and they are paid well.”

Sadly, working hard, being nice to your staff and paying them well aren’t enough. Those are wonderful qualities and ultimately they pay off, but they remain a small part of what is needed to be an effective supervisor.

Some people define effective supervision by the skill sets they need: good communication skills, the ability to motivate, delegate, manage performance issues and lead a group. These skills are fundamental for effective supervision. However, unless you start with the perspective that it is the supervisor’s job to help his or her employees succeed, it is unlikely that you will be a fully effective supervisor.

If your goal is to help your employees succeed, learning the skill sets listed above will make more sense and may be less of a challenge.

In the end, your attitude will encourage your employees to provide an excellent work product in a timely fashion, which is essential to the success of every company. Equally important, however, your attitude of helping your employees sets a tone that will motivate your staff in such a way that they will want to learn more of their craft, function more effectively as a team, and grow professionally as individuals. And, you will become an effective supervisor.

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