How to Develop a Supervisor’s Leadership Skills

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Leadership Skills of Manufacturing Supervisors

What are the leadership skills that manufacturing supervisors need to be most effective?

Often, we think that all a supervisor needs to focus on are the skills within their department and their daily duties. However, they need to have a broader understanding of the manufacturing process from the front-end all the way until the end of the process. A supervisor needs to understand their role and how it contributes to the bigger picture and how it impacts other departments.

For example, at Front Line Leadership, we had a client who had more customer orders than they could produce. What the frontline leaders did not know at the time was that they had an opportunity for extra business that could be brought into the company, which in turn would positively impact their job security and overall success.

This potential was so significant that it would have generated somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000 a day in sales and about half that amount in profit margin. However, because the organization was set up in a typical format where supervisors had their own silos to manage, they did not know about this potential.

Simply bringing the supervisors into that discussion allowed them to increase production by 50% and allowed them to increase their gross profit margin. Making sure everyone understood the big picture and how they fit into it was all that was needed to contribute to this change.

Three Ways for Manufacturing Supervisors to Improve Leadership Skills

Tip Number 1: Explain the Big Picture

What are the overall priorities for the business? Only about 20% of intent at the executive level actually makes it down to the frontline supervisor level. Work on communication between levels and ensure that everyone understands the big picture so that they can contribute to opportunities and successes.

Tip Number 2: Break Down Silos

Silos will form within departments. What that means is that there are walls that get built and people are only interested in their department’s priorities and not others. The downfall of this is that departments will make independent decisions without understanding that those decisions may affect the overall business and/or production supervisors.

You can break down silos by fostering internal collaboration between departments. In our workshops, we have an activity called Walk a Mile in My Shoes where you allow people to think about the challenges in other departments, and where those departments could use additional support. This allows us to break down silos and focus on the bigger picture of the company.

Tip Number 3: Provide Support and Development

Many supervisors feel unsupported, and as a result, they get very cynical about whether the company really cares about them. As an operating manager, your job is to remove frustrations and obstacles so that supervisors feel they have the support necessary to deliver results.

Then, you can provide the tools and training that they need to improve their skill sets so that they feel confident in their ability to lead.

Leadership Tools and Training

Once you have worked on improving leadership skills where you can internally, we can jump in to provide training with our Front Line Leadership program.

We have many training options available from on-site to our state-of-the-art virtual training studio. We also have a Front Line Leadership On Demand program that allows your supervisors to access training to their preferred device, at their convenience.

All of this starts with a conversation on our website at

We look forward to being your partners in operational excellence.