Career Development

Qualities of a Good Supervisor

December 22, 2020

A good supervisor is an important part of maintaining employees’ productivity and morale. Individuals who are successful in this role often possess a combination of interpersonal and management skills, as well as an approachable, confident and supportive personality. A great supervisor strives to continually learn, to build upon their strengths and to identify areas of weakness in which to improve. In this article, we will explore some of the qualities of a good supervisor and how you can become an effective supervisor.

Related: How to Demonstrate Leadership Skills

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

What makes 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
Supervisor Responsibilities
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Supervisor responsibilities include:
1. Managing workflow
2. Training new hires
3. Creating and managing team schedules
4. Reporting to HR and senior management
5. Evaluating performance and providing feedback
6. Identifying and applying career advancement opportunities
7. Helping to resolve employee issues and disputes

Skills a good supervisor may possess

In addition to the essential qualities above, supervisors can work to develop a specific set of skills that will benefit them in their roles, including:

  • Communication skills
  • Approachability and empathy
  • Management skills
  • Adaptability
  • Confidence and positivity
  • Transparency
  • Teamwork
  • Willingness to learn

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. 

Supervisors are often required to ask as a “go-between” for their team and other departments or higher management. They also may be called on to resolve both professional and interpersonal conflicts within their workplace. A key part of good communication is listening to employee feedback and incorporating that into your workplace. If a conflict arises, you will need to use your communication and listening skills to help resolve the issue and to keep your workplace atmosphere healthy and productive.

Read more: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

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).

If you focus on understanding your employees and make an effort to be accommodating when they need support while facing professional or personal challenges, you can earn their respect and trust. Work-life balance is an important part of every employee’s career. If you can be understanding of this while still leading your team to meet its goals, you will have increased your department’s morale and earn your team’s loyalty.

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. Identify the person on your team who can best handle a task and then trust (rather than micromanage) them to get the job done. Have confidence in your employees and their talents, and give them enough room to solve problems on their own, stepping in for guidance only as needed.

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

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.

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. If you can show genuine enthusiasm and motivation at work, your attitude will be contagious. Prioritizing whether or not your employees enjoy coming to work can help you foster a more productive workforce. Giving positive feedback to team members for jobs well done and celebrating reaching goals and milestones will contribute to your team’s morale and therefore, their productivity.

Related: How to Succeed at a New Job

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.

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

Willingness to learn

Just because you are 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.

How to be an effective supervisor

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

Here are some supervisor tips to remember:

1. 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. 

2. 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.

3. Find a trusted confidant

You are going to face challenges in your work life just like anyone else. As a supervisor, it is also 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.

4. 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. Practice by engaging and socializing with people in various scenarios or by taking a management training course.

5. Get used to change

Be cognizant of how you handle change, as you will experience a lot of it in your supervisory role. As a leader, other employees will take their attitude and action cues from you. Be ready to adapt to new processes or projects and to pass that adjustability on to your employees. Identify whether you need additional resources to help navigate a change or transition.

6. 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. Provide your coworkers with clear instructions, monitor their progress and provide constructive feedback as needed.

Keep these supervisor tips in mind if you are entering your first management position or if you are 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 will be well equipped for the challenge. Be confident in your abilities and seek mentorship, advice and additional training as needed.

When considering what makes an effective supervisor, notice the skills and qualities that help bring a team of employees together to work toward a common goal. A good supervisor strikes a balance between being a leader and a teammate. They provide clear guidance without micromanaging and are firm but fair. If you bring positive energy and optimism to work every day, it will spread to your staff to create a more productive and enjoyable work environment.

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