Updated Feb. 15, 2022
Supervisors play an integral role in the organizational structure and hierarchy of a company. They help manage other employees in the process of carrying out their daily tasks and ensure business operations run smoothly and efficiently, often handling entire teams.
Supervisors are not born, but rather developed - so we feature this class regularly in the PCC Professional Development and Training program. While some people have a knack for leadership, most employees are also capable of developing the soft skills necessary to successfully perform supervisory duties.
Important Supervisor Qualities
Individuals striving to move into a leadership position should work on honing these eight qualities of great supervisors. These soft skills can help supervisors better perform their manager-like roles and responsibilities, which include organizing workflow, setting performance goals and deadlines, promoting productivity, and supporting fellow employees.
1. Effective Communication
A majority of workplace failures can be attributed to ineffective or inaccurate communication, making it an especially important quality for leadership. Supervisors should develop exemplary written and verbal communication skills to help them speak with impact, clarity, and brevity. They also need to be adept at giving both positive and negative feedback, as well as receiving constructive criticism and input themselves.
There are numerous ways to define leadership, and it may manifest differently, depending on the industry, company culture, or management structure. However, certain leadership qualities are universal. Good supervisors take initiative while also providing support, motivation, and accountability to other team members. They have their own robust skillset and are willing to perform menial or mundane tasks to ensure a program or organization runs properly.
Supervisors also must possess the ability to objectively evaluate their team members; identify their strengths and apply them to the appropriate areas; and recognize any needs for improvement.
3. Empathy and Compassion
Supervisors are dealing with employees who are, first and foremost, humans. They will struggle, experience failure, and have bad days. While certain behavior and errors are unacceptable in a professional environment, supervisors should approach team members and their struggles with empathy and compassion. Those responses will lead to better problem-solving and improvement compared to anger or impatience while also bolstering company loyalty.
4. Conflict Resolution
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable and not necessarily a negative thing. All conflict means is that change is happening and people’s stances or perspectives differ. If a supervisor can competently handle conflict, it becomes an opportunity for strengthening relationships and developing robust solutions. An important part of successful conflict resolution is learning different conflict styles, methods, and triggers to help cultivate a process for both preventing and addressing it within a department or organization.
5. Ability to Delegate
While supervisors should have exemplary work ethics themselves, it’s equally important they know how and when to delegate. Employees want to feel like valuable parts of their company and integral to helping it achieve success. Delegation can become an effective tool for empowering employees. Supervisors must be able to identify which ones are best-equipped to handle certain tasks and find useful ways for every team member to contribute to a project or program.
The keys to problem-solving within the workplace are critical thinking, creativity, and consistency. Supervisors are relied on frequently to take the lead when an issue arises. Their job is to find the root of the problem and then follow an acceptable and structured process for addressing it. Ingenuity can be a useful part of problem-solving, but it’s important that supervisors also follow company policy and procedure to ensure certain situations are dealt with fairly, consistently and, in some cases, legally.
7. Time and Priority Management
Time is limited and certain projects or tasks are more urgent than others. A good supervisor is able to prioritize and delegate accordingly to ensure they are completed in a timely and efficient manner. With excellent time-management skills, a supervisor is able to oversee their team’s heavy workload in the most productive way without leaving employees feeling stressed and burned out.
Employees take note of their supervisor’s attitude. When a supervisor makes decisions confidently and then communicates them candidly, that can create a more productive, positive atmosphere. Not only do employees feel more confident in their supervisor’s leadership abilities, but they also appreciate the clarity and direction. Of course, not every decision a supervisor makes will lead to the intended outcome. In that case, it’s equally important for them to humbly accept responsibility, learn from the mistake, and choose a different course.
Preparing to Effectively Oversee Others
Regardless of your path as a supervisor, everyone in a leadership role can develop new skills that help them more successfully manage their team. Portland Community College’s Role of the Supervisor course with the Professional Development and Training program can help emerging leaders or those seeking a supervisor position develop a constructive philosophy and approach to overseeing other employees.