The Fundamental Competencies a Good Supervisor Needs

A good supervisor needs many different skills. It’s a common misconception that someone who is skilled at a particular job is a good candidate for management. Companies often promote people based on their competency at certain skills and tasks. For example, a good customer service agent might be promoted to a customer service supervision role. A strong accountant could be promoted to head of the accounting department. A good salesperson may end up as a sales supervisor.

35286471_sThe problem is that the skills that make people good at their jobs are not the same skills that make a person a good supervisor. Good accounting skills don’t translate into strong people skills. Even though salespeople are typically great with people, they may not have the aptitude for management. The competencies that great supervisors have are an entirely different set of skills. Some of these skills can be developed through training and mentoring, but others can’t be taught. A management candidate needs an entirely different set of skills.

There are numerous skills that go into good supervision. Depending on your company, others may apply, but here are some basic ones you should consider before promoting people:

1. The courage to identify and address issues quickly

Companies, departments and people have problems all the time. They can range from bad delivery schedules, inappropriate communication channels, bad customer service to inappropriate budgeting. Some people can easily spot these problems. That’s an important skill for anyone aspiring to a supervisory position. However, they must be able to take the next step.

People can’t be competent in management unless they are able to identify and address issues immediately. Many people are aware of problems, but don’t have the courage or won’t take the initiative to call attention to problems. Companies grow and thrive when problems are quickly solved throughout the organization. Otherwise, issues can fester and lead to low productivity, high expenses and low morale. A good supervisor tackles problems rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

2. Communication Skills

40343008_sSupervisors needs to constantly communicate. They need to explain tasks, request information, give instructions, provide feedback and give information to upper management. They also conduct performance reviews and interviews. These aren’t the same communication skills that are involved in customer service, sales or other positions. These skills involve some of the most difficult and intimidating types of communication. Supervisors need to be clear, concise and able to adjust their communication style to employees, customers and upper management. Supervisors also need to demonstrate empathy with they interact with others. People need to view management personnel as approachable and able to relate to their problems. Otherwise, they may hide important information or become unmotivated because they feel no one cares about what they are saying.

3. Strong Planning Skills

Planning is a key task for managers. They need to plan projects, hiring, employee schedules, shipments and many other things. Managers must ensure that their teams meet quotas and do their work with the acceptable standard of quality. They need to make sure they have enough employees to get work done. Managers are also responsible for creating and managing budgets, forecasting sales and costs and creating contingency plans in case of unexpected problems. These are just some examples of the planning a supervisor must do. Not all people are skilled at planning. They may have great at the tasks that comprise their job, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to handle all the planning jobs they’ll be faced with.  

4. Giving Feedback

One of the hardest things supervisors have to do is convey feedback to their employees. This is easy to do when the feedback is positive. Negative or constructive feedback is much more difficult.  However, it’s not fair to employees when they don’t receive all the information they need about their work. They need to know what they’re doing well and the areas in which they need to improve. In addition, they should get information about how they can develop so they can take on more responsibilities. It’s very difficult to give people honest and negative feedback and a lot of supervisors avoid it. Then, an employee believes their work is acceptable and are unpleasantly surprised when they get bad performance reviews, are put on action plans or terminated. This is one of the hardest things supervisors have to do.