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Being a good supervisor starts with an honest appraisal of your leadership style to identify areas that need improvement. Chances are you’ll need input from others to gain insight, so ask your employees for feedback. Use the insight to develop the attributes all supervisors need to be good, effective leaders. 

Without an ability to make your desires clear, your employees won’t know how to accomplish the tasks you delegate. Equally important is understanding and incorporating employee feedback. A good supervisor interacts effectively with her employees, maintaining open lines of communication to ensure she stays informed about project progress and brewing problems.

Effective supervisors are necessary in all settings where employees need guidance and supervision to complete tasks, serve customers, and meet deadlines. A skilled supervisor is an effective communicator, problem-solver and employee motivator. In order to be a good leader and get the most out of all of your employees, you need to have insight into their strengths and developmental needs. You also need to have a clear set of expectations and goals.

Empathy and Compassion

If you can’t place yourself in your employees’ shoes, you can’t lead them effectively. For example, a parent might not be able to work overtime, or an employee going through a hard time might need temporary special considerations. Be as accommodating as possible in the face of genuine need, and your employees will be loyal in return.

Ability to Delegate

A good supervisor excels in delegating tasks to those employees best-equipped to handle them. Proper delegation streamlines a project, ensuring efficiency and maximizing profitability. Poor delegation, on the other hand, compromises a project. For example, if you delegate a vital task to an inexperienced employee, the whole project can slow. Worse, you might have to backtrack to fix errors, an inefficient use of time and resources.

As a supervisor, it's impossible for you to do everything yourself, so you need to be able to trust your employees to take care of things without you. You may have to give up a little control, but you will have more time to focus on your own responsibilities and you will be giving your employees the opportunity to flourish.

  • Remember that you are still ultimately responsible for your employees' work, even if you delegate specific tasks to others. If you don't completely trust your employees to do the work on their own, establish some kind of review process until you think they can handle it.


Communication is vital to good leadership. You need to communicate your expectations clearly, whether you're explaining a single project or reminding the entire team about the company's policies.

  • Make sure you take the time to get to know all of your employees, and let them know that you are available to talk to them whenever necessary.

  • Communication involves listening as well as talking, so be open to listening to whatever input your employees have for you. When you give workers your undivided attention, they feel respected and are more willing to listen to your guidance. Strictly giving orders without listening can erode worker commitment and enthusiasm.

  • Avoid lecturing workers or sending directives by way of wordy emails. Think about the most important messages you want to convey and communicate them face-to-face or over the phone. Put thought into your email communications to ensure that they are clear, concise, and respectful.

  • Regular meetings with employees will give you the opportunity to ask them about the projects they are working on, hear worker grievances and triumphs, discuss team successes, and brainstorm solutions to new problems.

  • Always be responsive by answering your employees' emails and returning their calls promptly.

  • Multitasking is very convenient in today's busy world, but sometimes it just doesn't work. Let your employees know that you value their time by putting all distractions aside when you meet with them.

Flexibility when Possible

No single approach to management works in every situation. Rather, a good supervisor chooses tactics based on the situation. For example, as a deadline nears, you might adopt a hard-line approach to ensure the work gets done. But your employees can’t operate at full-speed perpetually, so adopt a more relaxed approach during downtime between projects. This gives employees time to recover their strength.

A Display of Confidence

Your employees look to you for inspiration. If you seem wishy-washy or fearful, they’ll assume you don’t know what you’re doing. That insecurity will create a negative workplace atmosphere, stifling productivity. But if you display confidence and positivity, your employees will be secure in your skills as a leader.

Have faith in yourself. One of the worst things you can do as a supervisor is to doubt your own abilities. If you're new to supervising others, recognize that you will probably make some mistakes along the way, but that does not mean you are not a good leader. Cut yourself a little slack, but then commit yourself to doing the best you can.

  • Keep in mind that you were hired to be a supervisor because your boss believes that you are capable of doing the job! Now you just have to prove your boss right.

  • Don't let yourself believe that bosses never make mistakes. Nobody expects you to be perfect except yourself.

Maintaining a Positive Attitude

Supervisors who come to work with a positive attitude make the office environment a great place to be. They use this attitude when solving problems, so the issues don't loom as large as they might. And positive attitudes are contagious. People tend to take on the attitude of their environment, and being positive is a good one to assume. Make sure to celebrate wins to acknowledge good work of the staff.

A Dose of Humility

While a confident and positive outlook is important, not every decision you make will work out well. When a project fails or a choice backfires, accept responsibility and learn from the mistake. Don’t blame your employees for problems that resulted from your mistakes.

An Open Book, When Possible

Supervisors do have to keep some secrets. This is especially the case for sensitive personnel matters, where an individual's privacy has to be respected, or for emerging company products or policies that aren't quite ready for a public announcement.

But when possible, a good supervisor operates in an open and transparent fashion, letting employees know of projects, opportunities, concerns, and anything else that is likely to be of interest to the workforce and for which there is no valid rationale for secrecy. A good manager will help employees improve their work up front instead of waiting months to provide feedback. Your openness will encourage dialogue among employees and between employees and a supervisor they see to be a trustworthy and reliable source of information.

Passion for the Company

Great managers love the company they work for, understand the company culture, and appreciate the company's objectives. They can easily convey to their employees why this is a great place to work, getting

team members on board and excited to contribute.

Lead by example

It's important to give your employees a good example of model behavior. Just because you are in charge does not mean you no longer have to abide by the rules. If you are hard-working, committed, and ethical, your employees are more likely to be that way too.

  • Remember not to let your new-found power go to your head. It's important to respect your employees if you want them to respect you in return.

  • Your attitude is just as important as your actions. Always be friendly and professional.

Be consistent

It's important that your employees know what to expect out of you. Be sure to always lay out the rules and expectations to new employees and to enforce these policies consistently. If there are changes to the policy, make sure the employees understand them.

  • Try to keep your emotions under control as much as possible.

  • Always treat employees fairly, and don't favor one over another.

Be willing to change

Good supervisors can't be completely stuck in their ways. They need to be willing to recognize when a specific approach isn't working and make changes accordingly, even if it involves admitting that they were wrong.

  • You also need to be able to adapt your management style to the needs of different employees. Some employees may flourish under hands-on management, while others may benefit from more freedom. It is your responsibility to recognize these needs and react accordingly.

  • This does not mean that you should have different standards for different employees in the same role. While you may want to customize your approach to each employee's working style, you still must be consistent in your expectations and disciplinary measures.


Be accountable

As the supervisor, you are responsible for your whole team. If you miss a deadline or lose a client, don't point fingers and blame others for the mistake. Instead, evaluate the role you played, admit your own mistakes, and come up with a plan to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Set reasonable expectations

You can't expect perfection out of your team, so be careful about over-criticizing or setting goals that are beyond reach. This will only discourage your employees.

  • You can still expect excellence out of your employees, as long as that excellence is actually attainable.

  • Take the time to talk to your employees about your expectations and get their feedback. If you encourage an honest discussion, your employees are more likely to let you know if your expectations seem unreasonable.

  • You should have a good understanding of the work volume that already exists and the amount of time it will take your employees to finish a specific project before setting a deadline. If you don't have the right information, you risk over-committing your team.


Reward accomplishments

When an employee does a good job, it's important to acknowledge it! Give all of your employees credit for a job well done and let them know that their hard work is appreciated.

  • Some supervisors feel threatened by successful employees, but this will only hinder your ability to be an effective supervisor. You should be proud of your high-performing employees, not jealous.

Encourage growth

One of your responsibilities as a supervisor is to unlock the potential of all of your employees. You can do this by offering constructive criticism and by looking for ways to allow them to take on new responsibilities or new roles within the organization.

  • Pay attention to the unique talents and skills of each worker and utilize those strengths for the benefit of the project or company. For example, a worker may be excellent on the phones but a slow typist. Find opportunities for her to apply her phone skills to building company connections, selling products, or serving customers.

  • Whenever possible, offer training to employees to help them learn new skills. A slow typist, for example, can be encouraged to take a typing class or be assigned additional typing tasks to improve her skills.

  • Avoid drawing attention to weaknesses unnecessarily. Excessive focus on employee weaknesses can result in discouragement and low employee morale.

  • Use employee reviews as an opportunity to both praise your employees for their strengths and to offer constructive criticism on what they can do better. Part of being an effective manager is assisting employees to transform their weaknesses into competencies. The first step is creating awareness of an area that needs improvement.

  • Don't wait for your employee's next yearly review if you can offer some constructive criticism today!

Confront conflict

Supervisors have to deal with a lot of uncomfortable situations, from disputes between employees to layoffs. While it may be tempting to avoid dealing with these situations as much as possible, it's best to tackle them head-on instead.

  • Your employees will not respect you if they see you as someone who runs away in the face of conflict.

  • When having a difficult conversation with an employee, always focus on objective observations and avoid making accusations.

Don't procrastinate

Procrastination is bad when employees do it, but it's even worse when supervisors do it. As a leader, you need to make a plan for tackling a project as soon as possible.

Find solutions

Instead of wasting your time complaining about the problems your organization or your department is facing, use that time to come up with a game plan.

  • Keep in mind that long-term solutions are always better than short-term solutions, even if they are harder to implement.

  • Being an effective problem solver means staying focused on the facts of the situation and thinking of creative solutions. Avoid focusing on emotions and blame. Think of the necessary steps for helping employees to regain composure and resume the task at hand.

Challenge yourself

Good leaders should always be looking for new ways to challenge themselves and their teams.

  • This doesn't mean overwhelming your team or taking on more than you can handle, but it does mean stepping outside of your comfort zone every once in a while. Encourage employees to do the same by offering them the opportunity to work on projects that are unfamiliar to them.

Set goals

It's important that a leader have a good understanding of the department's goals and objectives, so take some time periodically to go over the projects your team is working on. Create specific deadlines or targets for your employees to help keep them on track and motivated.

  • Be sure to listen to your team if they tell you the goals are not attainable. There's no reason a goal can't be modified.

  • The better your sense is of how much your team has to accomplish in a certain amount of time, the better you will understand how much additional work they are actually able to take on.

Be supportive

The supervisor needs to be able to step in and help the team problem solve whenever necessary. Make sure your team knows that if they are ever having a problem with a project, you are available to help them figure it out.

  • The importance of feedback cannot be overstated. Make sure you let your employees know how they are doing, whether good or bad.

Streamline processes

Create systems to save employees time on a task and/or to eliminate errors. Create documents that outline employee responsibilities and who is responsible for which tasks.

  • Automate menial tasks whenever possible, encouraging employees to focus more on productive and engaging projects.

Be resilient

Not everything will go according to plan, and as a supervisor, you need to be okay with that. Try not to take failures too personally. Instead, learn from them and apply that knowledge to your next project so you can avoid the same mistakes.

  • Keep in mind that negative energy will trickle down to your entire team, so be sure to set the right tone.

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