What makes a great supervisor? – Part 1

Great supervisors follow the same rules when working with their employees.  How many of these rules do you follow?  How many of these rules does your supervisor follow?  If you gave your employees a score card – how would they rate you?

Rule #1. Treat all your employees fairly
– that means workload, expectations and treatment.  What you’re willing to do for one, you must be willing to do for all.

Sub-tip:  Do not play favorites or develop special friendships with anyone you supervise – that will undermine your authority and open you up to charges of favoritism.

Rule #2. Give clear answers to all your employees’ questions
– this could mean tough questions – as to how the company is doing.  If you don’t have an answer, admit that you don’t know and you’ll get back to them.  Employees will make up answers to their questions if you don’t provide the answers – and those could be very wrong.

Rule #3. Act with integrity – your employees need to know that they can trust what you say to be accurate and true.  Never speculate about a company policy. Your credibility is based on a consistent experience of trust and reliability in what you tell employees.

Rule #4. Be crystal clear with your expectations – it is your job to tell employees exactly how to do their job.  Make sure you communicate this information in simple and easy-to-understand terms.  If they know exactly what is expected of them, they are much more likely to succeed.

Rule #5. Act decisively
– employees need to know that you can make a decision and then stick to it. Do not play the blame game with your employees when things go wrong. If you made a bad call, take responsibility for it. This is called leading by example.

Rule #6. Give employees the right tools and training – it is your job as supervisor to assure that your employees have all the tools and supplies they need to be successful.  Employees expect training and need to be taught how to master new skills to stay current within industry standards.  This is especially true for workers who have just been promoted or whose job gets upgraded.  It is pointless to criticize someone for doing a bad job if you have failed to provide them with the training they need to succeed.

Rule #7. Reward employees based on their job performance – ignoring good behavior and focusing only on bad job performance is the hallmark of bad supervision. It’s the most reliable way to turn a good employee into a mediocre one.  Strive to be the kind of supervisor who is constantly alert for people doing things right.  High performing workers deserve greater rewards than low performing workers. This is the way the world works. The more value an employee adds to the organization, the greater should be their reward.  If everyone just gets a 3% cost-of-living pay raise every year, regardless of their individual performance, then the high performers slow down and the job performance bar gets lowered.

What rules do you follow to be a great supervisor?  Next week there will be more rules to follow that will turn a good supervisor into a great supervisor.

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2 Responses to What makes a great supervisor? – Part 1

  • Thanks for all you great posts Holly. I 100% agree with rules 2-7. However, regarding rule no. 1, do you believe treating employees equally is the same as treating them fairly?

    • Holly says:

      Great question. Treating people fairly does not always mean treating them exactly the same. If an employee is consistently working overtime, going above and beyond, etc you may want to give them a bit more latitude when it comes to time off, choice projects, and opportunities. You want to reward excellent behavior. It gets tricky – you always have to ask yourself, would I do the same for another employee – based on performance of that employee – contrast that with just knowing the person better or “liking” them more. It’s best to be conservative and be able to explain to yourself and others why the treatment might not be the same. Having that information will allow you to show others how they can have opportunities too.

      Thanks for comments Sarah!


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