What does it take to provide good supervision? That’s the question I left you with after
The quick answer:
Stay connected to the needs of your employees.
Supervisors affect the ability of employees to produce good work through words and behaviors that either positively or negatively affect self-esteem, self-confidence, growth, and optimism about their career future. That’s a very big deal, one that makes being a supervisor deeper than it may sound.
The you-role connection
Too many supervisors forget that they’re leaders. Their job is to create an environment where employees want to be followers, willing to stretch themselves to achieve results that will pay off and make a difference.
Earning that employee following starts with understanding what you do that attracts or repels it. There’s no formula for that, alas.
Supervisors need to face and master their hot buttons. There are employees who can spin gold out of straw (Yay) and others who inevitably turn gold into cow patties (Boo) because their work ethic and attitudes fall short of expectations. Some employee behaviors may frost you, likely to bring out your worst. As supervisors, we’re all tested.
Each situation teaches you something important about yourself. How you handle each one showcases your respect for individuals, the team, the work, the company, and yourself. Strike the right balance and increase the depth and range of your following.
Supervising reveals what you stand for, the principles you won’t compromise. I knew what they were for me when I was willing risk my job or my influence to:
- go to the mat for employees I thought were being unfairly treated
- challenge policies that made it impossible for employees to serve the customer well
- openly voice objections to company mixed-messages that were demotivating
Being a good supervisor means getting over yourself. Big shot supervisors end up as easy targets for undermining employee noise. Supervisors with humility earn the respect of their employees when it’s evident that they’re working to help employees succeed, not the other way around.
Getting it right
Every day supervisors need to make decisions and take actions that must balance the needs of the organization and their employees.
Good supervisors understand how to adhere to policies and practices without being shackled by them. They can resolve difficult employee problems without compromising the standards of fairness to others. They can advocate for their work group with upper management without undermining others.
Good supervisors need to know what’s going on without micro-managing and to intervene for the right reasons at the right time.
On that point you may be asking yourself, “How do I know what to do, when to do it, and how?”
I’d like to say there’s a formula for that too, but there isn’t.
Every supervisor learns how and when to intervene by doing it. When you see, overhear, or sense a problem, need, or infraction, you must act.
Some situations require immediate action and others give you time to think. Getting it right is the challenge; mistakes are inevitable but rarely lethal.
Sometimes supervisors must be judge and jury, teacher and Dutch uncle, coach and referee, cheerleader and conscience. The buck always stops with you, that’s why you’re earning them.
Supervising people well (yes, they are people first) can be the most important contribution you make to their careers, even their lives. There lies the true weight of the role.
With the challenges of supervision come great rewards, so remember to savor them: the satisfaction of seeing your employees perform at their best, of contributing to their growth and future success, and of discovering your best self as you grow as a leader.
Good supervisors have the courage to do what’s right even when there’s a price to pay. They’re honest about their deficiencies and mistakes; care genuinely about their employees, even the one’s they don’t like or who fall short; and insightful about what’s really going on around them, enabling them to take the right action at the right time.
So what do good supervisors do when they make mistakes? That’s a topic for Episode #3.