Seven Secrets to Supervisory Success

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1. Be firm, fair and friendly

Because supervisors spend most of their time with employees it is easy to focus on being liked. Taking friendship too far will lead to favoritism and a decline in productivity. Employees respect a supervisor who is approachable, firm and fair. Even if the employees grumble a bit, they will appreciate a leader who has clear expectations and applies consequences.

2. Deliver results

Most supervisors already know the importance of delivering results in terms of production numbers, customer deliveries, quality and cost. When you deliver what is expected it builds trust with your manager. Employees also have a strong need to “win” and contribute to success. Remember to clarify what you expect so that employees can help you achieve results.

3. Focus on safety

Remember that safety is about caring for employees and their wellbeing. Even though we measure accidents and near misses, you’ll be able to take a tough and compassionate stand on safety when you keep it focused on the people. Most employees do unsafe acts in order to save time which can be a benefit to the company and to their own workload. Be diligent in observing and correcting unsafe actions and remind employees that safety is more important that output.

4. Explain the “Why”

Front line supervisors (and even their managers) forget the importance of explaining “why” when asking employees to complete certain tasks or do those tasks in specific ways. The entire leadership team needs to focus on explaining the importance of the requests and how it ties into the bigger picture. The vast majority of employees want to see the organization succeed and will pull with you when you let them know “why.”

5. Keep people in the loop

Similar to “Explain the Why” above, employees like to know what is going on and they prefer a heads-up over being surprised by last minute changes. Often the manager and supervisor know information far in advance than they share with employees but fail to share that information which causes employees to feel disrespected and less important members of the team. Keep employees up to date with the latest information and give as much notice as possible about changes to work schedules and overtime.

6. Encourage accountability, not excuses

Supervisors usually know accountability, after all they have to answer for the previous day’s results. Remember that reasons explain why something happened and help pinpoint accountability. Excuses tend to obscure accountability and avoid responsibility. Avoid a “shoot the messenger” response when problems are brought to your attention. If you overreact to the person bringing you the news they will learn to hide from you. Apply consequences (both good and corrective) and encourage employees to take ownership.

7. Seek input and involvement

Being a supervisor carries lots of responsibility. But it doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. Ask employees for their input, especially when changing work processes and solving problems. Asking for input takes time but that time is more than paid back with smoother implementation of change and fewer conflicts.

If these seven supervisory behaviors are lacking in your organization we can help supervisors (and their managers) learn how to build the skills and confidence to lead proactively.