Qualities of a Good Supervisor (Plus 8 Skills To Develop)

Updated March 10, 2023

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A team meets in an office meeting room. A writing board is seen to the left of them, and the team sits at a large table in front of a wall of windows.

Being a good supervisor is an important part of maintaining productivity and morale among staff. Individuals who are successful in this role often possess both interpersonal and management skills, plus an approachable, confident and supportive personality. A great supervisor is one who strives to continually learn, build upon their strengths and identify any areas of weakness in which to improve.

In this article, we'll explore some of the qualities of a good supervisor, as well as the skills common of leaders and how you can become an effective supervisor yourself.

What is a supervisor?

A supervisor is a manager who closely oversees a small group or department of employees. Being a supervisor means overseeing the daily activities of those employees and helping guide them through their responsibilities. Supervisors usually perform the following duties:

  • Schedule work shifts.

  • Train employees for their roles.

  • Give employees feedback on their performance.

  • Solve workplace challenges or conflicts.

  • Convey department goals and targets to their team.

  • Communicate updates and status reports to upper management.

A successful supervisor is a good collaborator who communicates well and is comfortable taking the role of a leader.

Read more: Qualities That Make a Good Leader

Qualities of a good supervisor

There are several characteristics, habits and qualities that contribute to someone being a good supervisor. Employers value supervisors who are proactive, responsible, reliable and capable. The best supervisors aid each member of their team by helping them to grow and succeed. Here are some other elements of a good supervisor to consider:

  • Resourceful and determined

  • Values each member of their team equally

  • Shows respect and consideration to both management and employees

  • Capable of giving employees both positive feedback and constructive criticism

  • Handles in-office conflict quickly and fairly

Related: Supervisor vs. Leader: What's the Difference?

8 additional skills a good supervisor may possess

In addition to the essential qualities above, supervisors can work to develop a specific skill set that'll benefit them in their roles, including:

1. Communication skills

Of the skills a supervisor should have, communication is one of the most important. As a supervisor, you should be able to clearly communicate processes, expectations and goals to your team so they can do their jobs effectively, which will also reflect positively on your performance. Keeping your employees constantly informed about the team’s progress, potential hurdles and future plans will make each team member feel engaged and valued. 

Read more: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

2. Approachability and empathy

A good supervisor works closely with their team and should be easily accessible when questions, conflicts or issues arise. As a supervisor, you will need to listen when your employees come to you with workplace complaints or suggestions. This requires important social skills such as empathy and emotional intelligence (being aware of your own emotions as well as those of others).

Related: How to Demonstrate Leadership Skills

3. Management skills

Supervisors are first and foremost responsible for the productivity of their team. This includes managing employees’ schedules, making sure everyone meets deadlines and assigning tasks to the appropriate team members. Supervisors must be able to keep their team functioning smoothly and efficiently. 

Being able to delegate tasks efficiently to the appropriate employees is one of the top management skills you will need to be a good supervisor. You will need to recognize each of your employee’s strengths and weaknesses and make sure you utilize them as effectively as possible.

If you make job delegation a priority, you will be able to free up more of your own time to complete supervisory tasks and manage the team or project as a whole. Good delegation maximizes efficiency, ensures that projects get completed properly and helps generate revenue.

Read more: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Adaptability

No list of good supervisory skills is complete without mentioning the ability to think and react quickly and efficiently. You may need to be able to strategize and make decisions based on an individual situation, rather than trying to follow a rigid protocol. Be flexible and creative in your problem-solving, and do not be afraid to implement new ideas. Doing so can give your team more confidence and trust in your ability to lead.

5. Confidence and positivity

Your attitude and demeanor are contagious and can greatly influence the atmosphere in your workplace. Try to approach each day and situation with positivity and optimism. Also, focus on showing confidence both in yourself and your team. As much as possible, show passion for the company and its objectives and inspire your team members can share that excitement. Supervisors lead by example as often as they lead by command.

Related: How To Succeed at a New Job

6. Transparency

While you will be required to keep some matters private, such as sensitive employee information or company trade secrets, try to operate as transparently as possible. Being a great supervisor means being honest and direct with your employees. Share with your staff any department or organization successes, failures, opportunities or concerns, as you deem appropriate.

Whenever possible, give them immediate feedback and encourage open dialogue. Also, have the humility to accept responsibility for any project failures or poor choices. This type of transparency and honesty can help boost your team’s respect for you as a leader.

7. Teamwork

Treat your employees more like equal team members than as subordinates. Rather than issuing a steady stream of orders and commands and expecting staff to stay on task, try to include them in the decision-making and strategizing processes. Treat them as partners and encourage collaboration.

A team-oriented approach makes for a more productive and positive workplace. If a conflict arises, be confident and firm in your supervisory role, but also remain neutral and unbiased. Ideally, each member of your team should feel valued and involved.

Read more: 6 Tips for Effective Teamwork

8. Willingness to learn

Just because you're a team leader does not mean you know everything there is to know about your job, your career or your industry. The best supervisor is always trying to enhance his or her skills and knowledge. You can learn not only from the people and employees around you but also from self-education opportunities provided through your workplace or online. Share what you learn with your team members, and encourage them to pursue their continued professional development as well.

Related: Leadership Advice: 18 Tips for Becoming an Effective Leader

How to be an effective supervisor

Whether you're a seasoned supervisor or you're just starting your first management job, you can always find ways to improve.

Here are some supervisor tips to remember:

  • Get feedback: Ask other managers and your team for input and advice. Use this feedback to better handle a difficult scenario or to improve your own skills and knowledge. 

  • Lead effective team meetings: To get the most participation, productivity and results out of meetings, seek advice from a mentor or take a course on meeting management. An effective meeting environment is one your employees will want to attend and contribute to.

  • Find a trusted confidant: As a supervisor, it's not appropriate to rant to your own staff. Instead of gossiping with another employee, find an unbiased and trustworthy friend, colleague, family member or even human resources professional with whom to talk or vent to about work.

  • Develop your interpersonal skills: Just as a good supervisor always seeks out more training, experience and knowledge, so too should you continue to improve your employee interactions. Always think about how you can develop your people skills.

  • Accommodate change: Be cognizant of how you handle change, as you will experience a lot of it in your supervisory role. Be ready to adapt to new processes or projects and to pass that adjustability on to your employees.

  • Delegate responsibilities: Remember that you do not have to undertake every task yourself. Your responsibility as a supervisor is to make sure tasks are done properly and on time. Learn to let go by assigning these tasks to your employees and trusting in their abilities.

Related: Interview Question: "How Do You Delegate?" (With Answers)

Keep these supervisor tips in mind if you're entering your first management position or if you're seeking to grow as a team leader. Overseeing a group of people can be intimidating and overwhelming initially, but if you focus on improvement, you'll be well equipped for the challenge. Be confident in your abilities and seek mentorship, advice and additional training as needed.

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