This guide to effective supervision provides new supervisors with practical and proven ways to get started fast. Supervision is often a messy business that requires practical problem-solving skills. Here are 18 practical pieces of advice to educate, encourage, influence, and inspire them.
If you are looking for ways to improve your supervisory skills, I recommend you look into these courses for supervisors.
What is a supervisor?
The word supervisor refers to your immediate superior in the workplace. You report directly to a supervisor. In the Philippines, it is typical to call a first-line manager a supervisor.
If you are directly reporting to someone, to a project manager, then the project manager is your supervisor. If you are directly reporting to the CEO of the company, then the CEO is your supervisor.
Supervisors are responsible for employees’ performance, potential, and readiness.
Supervisors need skills like decision-making, problem-solving, planning, delegation, and meeting management.
Supervisors are responsible for building teams hiring new employees, training and coaching employees, designing job roles, and many more.
What is supervision?
Supervision refers to the action, activities, and process that involve a supervisor engaging, monitoring, and interacting with direct reports to ensure the effective delivery of work. A supervisor has authority over direct reports and is accountable for their results.
Overseer is the direct translation of the Latin origin of the word supervision.
The word paints a picture of you, the supervisor, watching from above to ensure that lazy slaves or slow workers continue working, so the promised jobs get delivered on time.
Even today, some supervisors think that their main job is to watch those who are doing wrong or doing nothing.
Supervision is often a messy business that requires practical problem-solving skills. We cannot always predict how people will respond to us, but there are proven ways to educate, encourage, influence, and inspire them. If you want to find practical advice on how to become a great supervisor, there are proven and practical ways to get started.
Key Purpose of Supervision
The purpose of supervision is to monitor tasks, balance workload, solve problems, resolve conflict, and guide directs in dealing with complex situations.
Both the supervisor and direct reports are accountable for improving practice and performance. The most important job of the supervisor is to help everyone he leads succeed.
Two Types of Supervision
The two types of supervision are direct and indirect supervision.
You do direct supervision when you work directly with your subordinates. Before Covid-19, most direct supervision is face to face. Then, it became virtual.
You can be a hands-on supervisor even with remote workers. We find ways because we have to ensure that our people continue growing.
You need direct supervision when you are giving instruction, training, coaching, and mentoring your staff.
You do indirect supervision to ensure that assigned work is done. You can be monitoring performance via project management tools or emails.
You can do this daily, weekly, or monthly.
Indirect supervision works well with self-directed individuals. I do not need to spend much time with them. However, I have to ensure that they get things done through timely check=ins and performance monitoring.
5 Principles of Supervision
Understanding the principles of supervision will help you get started right.
Often, new supervisors are overwhelmed by the expectations to become great in what they do. Individual performers don’t want to do mediocre work, of course. But everyone starts as a beginner.
Here are five principles I learned from good supervisors.
You can be an effective supervisor too. Your elevation to the role of leadership did not make you perfect – and your direct reports know that. Do not be too hard on yourself. You do not have to exert yourself too much. You can become an awesome supervisor one day at a time.
Supervisory Leadership Development
Supervisory leadership development refers to the process and activities that ensure supervisors acquire the confidence and competence to get things done every day.
One can be promoted to supervisory skills because of technical skills. Or get a post because of the ability to connect with people.
But supervisors must make people deliver. And people are not as predictable as machines or mathematical equations.
Supervisors can make people love what they hate. Supervisors can make people believe they can go beyond their limits. Supervisors can make people aim for what is best for the organization.
Everyone in the organization has the potential to lead others. And the supervisor is in the best position to do it.
This is why great companies design interventions to develop supervisors.
Interventions are enablers. Examples of interventions are training, coaching, mentoring, and counseling.
For professionals to succeed, they must invest in technical, interpersonal, and leadership skills.
What is supervisory training?
Supervisory training refers to instructional and experiential activities provided to supervisors in an organization to increase knowledge, build skills, and develop the standards for leading people and growing the business.
Supervisory skills training will help supervisors do their jobs correctly and purposefully.
Most supervisor training programs are based on POLC: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling, which are done in one day. This is often ineffective.
Training providers attempt to teach four MBA courses in one day.
The best supervisory training courses are tailor-fit to the needs of the individual and the organization.
Once you recognize that you do not grow to fit in a box, then you will focus on creating opportunities for supervisors to grow.
Developing leadership competencies can make you an effective and influential leader. Competencies are performance enablers. Competencies are sets of knowledge and skills that help leaders achieve their objectives.
The leaders most people know are those who get elected to office. Often, they rely on name recall and charisma. But charisma isn’t enough to make a big difference.
Think about the charismatic political leaders we had. Unfortunately, those who lack leadership skills failed us. They promised the heavens and the stars but could not deliver their promises.
To become effective, you must identify and master the skills you need to deliver your tasks, projects, or vision.
Develop Supervisory Skills
You can improve leadership skills through deliberate training. Some skills are more important than others in specific functions and situations.
It is essential, therefore, to identify the crucial skills you need to perform at your best.
- Start by asking your managers about your most critical skills to perform your job.
- Take inventory of your skills.
- Upgrade and optimize those skills that you already possess.
- Work on others when necessary.
What are supervisory skills?
Supervisory skills are learned abilities supervisors employ to achieve targeted measurable results assigned to them by their organizations. They use their skills by identifying the vital behaviors that bring the greatest results. Supervisory skills are enablers of performance.
This is good news for new supervisors. Because even if you do not have all the supervisory skills necessary to become great at what you do, you can learn them on the job. You do not even need to become a master of a specific skill. You may only need to practice vital behaviors that bring the greatest results.
Organizations can also accelerate skills development by providing supervisory training programs. This works by deliberately targeting essential supervisory skills for the just-in-time need of supervisors.
Supervisors may need different skills depending on their jobs and authority in the organization. Most supervisors fail not for lack of will but for lack of skills.
In my experience, a leader does not need to possess all skills. At times, you can leverage the skills that your direct reports have.
Explore the leadership skills below.
Crucial Supervisory Skills
You can learn more about skills for leaders in the following posts.
The Mindset of A Good Supervisor
A supervisor is a leader, not a slave driver. Please keep this in mind because doing so will help you succeed.
Empowering mindsets make excellent supervision. Because whatever your mind can conceive, you can achieve. Your mindset will propel you toward where you want to go.
Be careful, therefore, with the mindset you possess. It is a power that can control your “destiny.”
Embrace a growth mindset.
Becoming a great supervisor is a journey that includes a lot of falling and standing up. You will commit many mistakes (who doesn’t?), and your disposition about challenges and failure will define your velocity.
A supervisor with a growth mindset knows that intelligence isn’t enough. No one is born destined to become a supervisor.
That’s laughable, you may say. But many people believe that intelligence is pre-determined.
Supervisors with a growth mindset aren’t after looking intelligent and great. They want to learn from both failures and successes. They listen to people, keep their eyes open, and listen to others. They don’t beat themselves up when things don’t go their way.
Think like a servant leader.
Some supervisors think of themselves as slave drivers. Others work like slaves. You can be neither.
To think like a servant leader, consider yourself doing your job out of service.
You work to create and add value to the people you serve. You don’t get paid for being a servant leader. That’s why they call you a supervisor.
But make no mistake about it. A supervisor who thinks like a servant leaders wake up each morning with a mission to accomplish. He is not after ticking every task box. He serves customers and employees.
A servant leader is happy, though never satisfied.
You belong to a system. Most of what you do influences the behaviors of people around you. So you can design your supervision to make people work like a well-oiled machine.
I encourage you to seek personal development. Increase your influence. Be the person trusted and respected by employees. When you do, you can achieve success by design.
Promote team learning too. Enlist employees who can make the system work. Find individuals who are willing to be your first followers. Then, enable them to act.
Quick-start tipsfor new supervisors
Sophie RoseTo be a manager, one must be able to manage her own relationship with the people around her, as well as the relationships among his subordinates. Just being perfect in paperwork and operations does not make one a good manager.
Organizations define the jobs of supervisors differently. Of course, we don’t expect middle managers to have the exact job expectations as first-level supervisors. But there are common competencies.
1. Know your job.
Supervision in a typical Filipino workplace is a supervisor’s primary job. The supervisors oversee the productivity, performance, progress, and potential of employees who report to them.
There are many kinds of supervisors. The first-level supervisors oversee the entry-level employees. The middle managers supervise first-level supervisors. C-level executives supervise middle managers.
Today, supervisors are people tasked to oversee the day-to-day performance of employees. They don’t just watch and report what people are doing. A good supervisor plays the roles of a team leader, trainer, facilitator, coach, mentor, confidante, decision-maker, innovator, and salesperson to ensure goals are achieved. They drive organizational growth. It will help you a lot if you can distinguish between your supervisory and management jobs.
2. Understand the Purpose of Supervision
In the olden days, the purpose of supervision is to watch above everyone. They catch employees who are doing something wrong – or doing nothing.
Today, supervisors exercise leadership and watch people doing things right. Supervisors are everyday leaders who ensure the success of organizations.
This change in purpose requires that a supervisor thinks like a business owner, a counselor, a coach, a mentor, a customer champion, and an employee.
Supervisors no longer work like lieutenants who have to wait for orders from their superiors. They are executives who must set their own goals that support the mission and make things happen.
Competencies evolved. You go beyond the POLC: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling model of supervision. That’s because it is not just a job; supervision is both a responsibility and an opportunity to transform people.
Promotion to the role is quicker, a lot quicker. You do not have to wait many years to get appointed to the post. Fresh graduates can become supervisors as long as they have the competencies and maturity to handle the job.
Seniority does not always equate to maturity.
3. Embrace the Core Responsibility of Supervisors
Supervisors have one primary responsibility: to make customers happy. To do that, supervisors must ensure the timely delivery of products and services, keep employees engaged and motivated, reduce waste, and increase profitability.
Sure, supervisors do a thousand things. But doing this one thing will make it clear why you have to do or not do a thousand things.
4. Aim to be a Better Supervisor
A supervisor who values self-leadership will learn faster than anyone. It is not enough that you give back to the company what you get from them. You need to return that value a thousandfold.
My objective for writing this guide is to help you do great work. I am adding value. Go beyond being a good supervisor.
But let’s answer this very common question, anyway.
How to become a good supervisor?
To be a good supervisor, identify customers’ success metrics. Then, work on each success measure beyond the expectations of the customers.
Practice happiness plus one.
Supervisors have two kinds of customers: internal and external. Inside the organization, supervisors must meet their key performance indicators and earn the respect of their bosses, peers, and direct reports.
These are the steps on how to be a good supervisor.
5. Evaluate your success (or failure).
To evaluate is to ascertain value. The most prominent measures of a supervisor’s success are the key performance indicators.
High-performing supervisors make an organization survive. You also evaluate the supervisors’ potential or the supervisor’s willingness to learn new skills and accept responsibilities.
Supervisors who are quick learners are assets of the organization. Finally, consider the willingness of the supervisor to assume greater responsibilities by considering maturity and skills.
6. Build Crucial Competencies During Crisis
The four most critical supervisory skills during the pandemic are communication, creativity, resilience, and adaptive leadership.
Supervisors need to communicate clearly and with compassion.
Employees are anxious and confused. Supervisors need to be creative in finding solutions as the organization faces extraordinary challenges.
7. Practice Management Skills
Supervisors practice essential management skills like decision-making, problem-solving, planning, delegation, and meeting management.
In supervisory training, one typical module is leadership versus management. And mostly, it is as if a leader is better than a manager.
Supervisors both need to build leadership and management skills. When supervisors make decisions, solve problems, delegate work, and conduct effective meetings, they exercise leadership skills.
It should be leadership and management, not versus as the two almost always come together.
You are exercising management skills when you ensure you make the process work to get tasks done. You are exercising leadership when you are inspiring and enabling people to get the jobs done. Supervisors often exercise management and leadership skills at the same time.
Often, it is the management skills where most supervisors falter. And when supervisors fail in managing the process, their leadership suffers.
Terry FranconaAs a manager, the more consistent you are, the better off you are. It’s easy to be up when things go well. When things don’t go well, the players will follow your lead. So you have to be consistent and upbeat, which takes some work sometimes.
8. Build and lead teams.
Supervisors are team leaders. They must ensure that their direct reports work as one unit and value the team’s goals more than their personal goals.
Building and leading a team is a process. It is a big responsibility that requires both commitment and competence.
When building a team, you must clarify goals, identify roles, establish open and honest communication, and define how decisions will be made.
To lead a team, you need to respect diverse beliefs and ambitions. It would be best if you gave direct reports opportunities to solve problems together. And you want them to participate in leadership so that they’ll be able to work even without your supervision.
Did you get that last line?
Your ultimate aim is to enable them to work even without your supervision.
Gerard R. GriffinPeople work for people, not for companies. A worker’s regard for his supervisor will affect his opinion of his employer. Production is related to attitude, so much so that an organization which disregards this human equation will not achieve as much as it could achieve.
9. Identify job roles for current and future requirements.
Identifying job roles is a supervisor role in good times. This role is even more necessary in challenging times.
Our Covid-19 situation requires that supervisors re-define the roles of employees. There are changes in how people work and where they work. It would be best if supervisors would recommend the crucial roles needed to succeed in a crisis.
One day, the Covid-19 crisis will be over. We will work in the new normal. But we do not know what the new normal requires. Supervisors must consider the roles of direct reports in the new normal, for that will surely come.
What are the requirements to ensure that everyone is safe? How can everyone work more effectively in the new environment? What are the competencies needed to become successful? You will ask many challenging questions — and you must find answers to them to prepare your people.
10. Hire good employees.
Not all supervisors are involved in hiring employees. I prefer that they are active in the hiring process.
In hiring employees, know the current and future requirements of your organization. Figure out how your company’s strategic directions will influence the kind of people you want for the job. You will consider skills, attitudes, and previous experiences.
Though I do not believe that previous experiences are not predictors of future performance, you can get good information valuable to making excellent decisions.
11. Enable employees.
Supervisors are often required to train employees. Unfortunately, many supervisors do not know how to teach — and training does not always work. Excellent supervision happens when people are competent.
Your job is not to train employees.
Your job is to help employees learn faster and better. You will enable them to become successful. So, it does not mean that you need to bring them to a classroom.
No. Your job is to create an environment that will help employees acquire critical skills, practice vital behaviors, and choose a growth mindset.
Think like a business owner. To make your business grow, you grow people. You make them learn, practice what they learned, and get them to teach others.
Abhishek RatnaA manager must always provide the employees opportunities to continuously improve their skills and reassure them that they have a promising future.
12. Manage employee performance.
The successes of your direct reports determine your supervision success. You pay attention to their performance, potential, and readiness.
You set goals. Define the contribution you need from each. Show to get things done. Then measure performance.
To manage performance, supervisors need to ensure that what they do daily will bring results. Give constant feedback. You praise and correct. You instruct and suggest. You make everyone focus on work and how they do work.
To check problems in attitude, you counsel them.
To improve skills, you coach them.
To grab new opportunities, you mentor them.
To save them from hell, you pray for them.
You do all of these because your failure to manage performance will surely make the organization fail.
Frederick W. SmithA manager is not a person who can do the work better than his men; he is a person who can get his men to do the work better than he can.
13. Comply with personnel policies and internal regulations.
Supervisors are employees too. That’s obvious, but a reminder is not bad. You must comply with personnel policies and follow internal regulations.
You comply for your protection.
You comply to set yourself as an example to others.
You comply because doing so is good for your organization. You want to help others who monitor you get their jobs done too.
And most importantly, you comply because you don’t want to get fired.
14. Fire employees when necessary.
Not all supervisors can fire employees like Donald Trump. But this is an important job.
An executive who has been handling thousands of employees worldwide told me that his secret is “to hire slow and fire quick”. I am not really sold on this concept. I think it has something to do with my being a teacher: I give people many chances to redeem themselves.
He said that you don’t hire an employee because you need a person to do the job. You hire someone who can do a great job. He said that when you hire a mediocre candidate, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to welcome the great ones when they come. Why? Because the seat is filled.
But hiring is not an exact science.
Sometimes, you get to hire someone who seems excellent during interviews but doesn’t get the job done. The person is not fit for the job. You hate working with him or her. He said that you fire that employee as quickly as possible.
But you do not have that power. And I am not sure if that is even legal. But what he said about firing people who are not fit for the job makes good sense to me.
You won’t accomplish your tasks and achieve your goals if you don’t have the right person for the job. As a teacher, I will say that you give the person the support you believe is necessary. Do everything in your power to help the person, but not to the detriment of your organization.
Even before you hire someone, know full well how you can legally fire him.
15. Get good training.
To become a better supervisor, you need to develop skills that you never had before.
First, you are going to lead people. Good leaders use their personal power to influence others to do what’s good for them.
Second, there is no one way of leading others. As much as experience can teach you how to supervise others, training can accelerate your progress and help you avoid common mistakes.
- Join seminars.
- Read books. You don’t have to buy expensive books. Download ebooks online. It is perfectly legal. Experts found ways to share what they know in the modern world without asking you to rob a bank.
- You can watch Youtube videos.
- Join courses on Coursera.
- Enroll in Linkedin Learning.
You can also bring my online courses for supervisors. Go to Supervisory Training.
May all these kick-ass tips help you become a better supervisor. Your position is created to ensure that employees deliver. You’ve got to deliver daily without being told.
I also want to hear from you.
Please tell me which of these tips you want to apply at once. And when you have questions, reach out. I am willing to help you become a kick-ass supervisor.
Do you have questions about supervision? You may contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I answered some of the common questions.
Best Articles to Read on Supervision
This website offers valuable articles that can help you improve your supervisory skills. Explore new insights, strategies, and tools that can help you lead people.
To Lead By Example. Supervisors need to set examples for others. That means their actions and words are the best expressions of what they want from people.
- 18 Awesome Skills for Supervisors. We explored supervisory skills training because we understand the value of skills as the enabler of performance. If you want to get ahead and do your job as a supervisor, I encourage you to explore these 18 skills.
- Top 17 Qualities of Good Leaders. People follow leaders whose characteristics they admire. Explore the admirable qualities of good leaders. Discover ways to demonstrate these qualities in your daily practice as a supervisor.
- Enable Others to Act. Good supervisors explore many ways to help employees get things done. The supervisor is a coach, trainer, and mentor. Enabling others to act is a vital behavior of breakthrough leaders.
- 10 Essential Steps for New Supervisors. These steps can help you start right if you are a new supervisor.
- Effective Supervisors Solve Problems. Learn how to solve problems in seven simple steps.
- Personal Development Plan in 4 Easy Steps. Find out how you can design a personal development plan that you can execute.
- Personal Development for Beginners. A supervisor must be mindful of self-development. This guide will help you pay more attention to your self-improvement goals.
- 50 Self-Improvement Ideas for Awesome Success. These are practical tips on how you can pursue self-improvement. Pick one of the 50 ideas in this article.
- Why Supervisor Training Is So Important? The short answer is that it solves many problems.
- Why do Managers Need Training? This article highlighted ten workplace supervision effects. Number 8 is reduced profitability. Do you want your company to earn more? Then, take care of supervisory development.
- 21 Key Benefits of Leadership Training. Yes, I can list dozens more. But if you want to convince your boss that leadership training is important, read this post.
- Get and Recieve Feedback. Your ability to listen will enhance your effectiveness as a supervisor. You will intervene in the day-to-day work of your people. Giving and receiving feedback ensure that people are fully aware of their actions.
- Training Beliefs of Supervisors. Many supervisors do not value training. They have many reasons for not sending a supervisor to new training opportunities. Most of these reasons prevent them from succeeding.