How To Be a Good Supervisor (With Steps and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A supervisor plays a key role in motivating their team to meet their productivity goals and promote morale. Effective supervisors use their leadership skills to manage business and administrative duties while providing support and guidance for their team. By learning about the skills and qualities of effective supervisors, you can improve your own leadership abilities and help your team succeed. In this article, we define what a supervisor is, outline the steps for being a good supervisor, describe their key skills, qualities and roles and offer tips for those who are new to the position.

What is a supervisor?

A supervisor is a leader who works closely with a small group or department of people. They oversee the daily responsibilities of their team members, provide guidance and feedback, offer support through challenges and encourage their team to work toward achieving business objectives. Some other responsibilities include:

  • Scheduling shifts

  • Training new team members

  • Resolving conflicts

  • Establishing and communicating goals

  • Reporting updates to their team and upper management

Related: General Manager: Skills, Qualifications and Average Salary

How to be a good supervisor

Here are some steps for becoming an effective supervisor:

1. Ask for feedback

The first step to being a good supervisor is to ask for feedback regularly. Asking upper management and the members of your team for constructive comments on your work and leadership skills can be a great way to get to know your strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. By getting feedback from those who work with you most often, you can adapt your leadership approach to best suit the needs of those around you.

2. Lead effective team meetings

Planning and leading effective team meetings can help you communicate with your team and improve team morale. An effective team meeting encourages participation and ensures that every attendant understands the meeting's purpose. To help you lead successful meetings, you can seek the advice of your mentor, attend a meeting management training or workshop or find a role model to study and imitate. When you recognise the techniques that others use to create effective meetings, you can implement those strategies in your own meeting management approach.

3. Build a support network

As a leader, you may face conflicts or challenges in your work, but having a strong support network can help you overcome obstacles. A support network can include professional mentors and trusted friends or family members outside of the workplace. These individuals may offer advice or emotional support to help you work through complex situations. Accepting the support of those around you can help you build your confidence, stay positive in difficult circumstances and collaborate with others to solve problems.

4. Develop your interpersonal skills

Another way to become a good supervisor is to focus on developing your interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are the traits, qualities or characteristics you use to make meaningful connections with others. Some interpersonal skills include teamwork, communication, active listening, responsibility, dependability, empathy and patience. By developing your interpersonal skills, you can build relationships with your team members that help you communicate, gain trust in each other and find personalised ways to motivate and encourage one another.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

5. Accept change

There may be times when you have to handle change in your workplace. This can include changing expectations for a project or a change in your department or the operations of your organisation. Remaining flexible and prepared to adapt to changes can help you and your team transition successfully. As a leader, your team may look to you for guidance on how to handle changes. Responding proactively, with confidence and professionalism, may reinforce their trust in you and assure them that your team can successfully adjust to new circumstances.

6. Delegate tasks

Finally, good supervisors know how to assign tasks to others. When you trust in the abilities of your team, it may be easier to allow them to handle certain assignments. Getting to know the members of your team, including their strengths, skills and preferences, can help you delegate tasks to the right member for each job. By delegating assignments, you show your trust in your team member's abilities, and you can develop a team culture in which everyone participates, takes ownership over their work and works together to achieve project objectives.

What are the qualities of a good supervisor?

Good supervisors use certain qualities, characteristics and habits to succeed in their roles. When supervisors apply their leadership skills effectively, they demonstrate their reliability, responsibility and productivity. They can act as positive role models who encourage their team members to communicate well, work hard, grow their skills and feel confident in their work. Some qualities of a good supervisor include:

  • Shows resourcefulness and determination

  • Demonstrates appreciation for each member of their team

  • Respects others

  • Provides regular feedback to team members

  • Resolves conflicts quickly and with professionalism

Related: Ways To Say "Thank You for Your Efforts" in Your Workplace

What are the five roles of a supervisor?

A supervisor has five roles, and by learning skills to fill each of those roles, they can meet the needs of their team members and support them in meeting project goals. Here are the five roles of a supervisor:

  • Educator: A supervisor acts as an educator when they train new employees, help team members learn new skills and communicate procedure or project updates.

  • Sponsor: Supervisors perform the role of a sponsor when they provide opportunities for their team members to show their skills and rise to meet challenges.

  • Coach: By encouraging employees to do their best work and providing feedback and new strategies to grow their skills, supervisors take a coaching role.

  • Counsellor: Sometimes, a supervisor may need to counsel employees through conflicts by identifying areas for improvement and offering strategies to increase their performance. Additionally, supervisors may encourage team members to reflect on their work and support them through changing their work habits.

  • Director: As a director, you may take a more direct and instructive approach to problems, stating your expectations and providing corrective feedback to your team.

How can I be a good supervisor for the first time?

If you're new to your supervisor role, there are some strategies you can implement to help you gain leadership skills. Here are some tips for learning supervisory skills:

Get to know your employees

It can be hard to take on a new role or start a new job where you're responsible for people you may not have met yet, so taking time to get to know your team is a good first step for new supervisors. You can introduce yourself personally to each member of your team, or you can schedule a meeting to introduce yourself and conduct team-building activities. As you meet each team member, you might ask about their goals, personal hobbies and work preferences so you can make the most of their assets and interests.

Believe in your abilities

Having confidence in your abilities can help your team members feel secure in your leadership skills. As a new supervisor, remind yourself that it's okay to make mistakes as long as you hold yourself accountable for resolving errors, take responsibility for your actions and learn from your experiences. Confidence can help you accept mistakes without losing trust in your abilities. It can help you keep a positive attitude, set a good example for your team and keep you motivated to do your best work.

Ask for feedback and be reflective

Finally, seeking regular feedback on your work can help you know your strengths and refine your skills. Especially as a new supervisor, you may need more feedback as you gain experience and learn about your new role. In addition to asking for feedback from others, taking time to reflect on your work can help you identify your own abilities, successes and areas for improvement.

Related: How To Create an Individual Development Plan (With Template)

What are the seven supervisory skills?

There are seven skills that contribute to the success of supervisors. Here are the key skills for this position:

  • Communication: Communication includes using good listening skills and having the ability to express yourself verbally, non-verbally and in writing.

  • Leadership: Supervisors use leadership skills to motivate their teams, guide their efforts and promote productivity.

  • Adaptability: Adaptability refers to the ability to stay flexible and successfully adjust to changes.

  • Positive attitude: A positive attitude can help supervisors overcome challenges and uplift others.

  • Integrity: Integrity means performing with honesty, taking responsibility for your actions and using strong ethics to guide your decision making.

  • Teamwork: A leader works with their team to promote excellence, help them grow and support their needs.

  • Willingness to learn: Supervisors actively seek new opportunities to learn, gain skills and develop their professionalism, along with accepting mistakes and learning from errors.

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