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Key Qualities of a Competent Supervisor

5 Key Qualities of a Competent Supervisor

The term ‘Supervisor’ is a generic title and can be applied across many roles within an organisation.  These may sometimes take the form of: Team Lead, Shift Lead, Process Lead, Superintendent, Foreman, Charge-hand, Junior Manager, etc.

Regardless of what title a ‘Supervisor’ is given in the organisation, it is still defined as a management role – as the role requires the management of resources which can be people, materials, budgets or combinations of these.  It is also a leadership role – as you have to apply leadership skills as well, to motivate, communicate to get goals completed.

For the purpose of a definition of a Supervisor, I prefer to use PW Betts:

‘A Supervisor is anyone person who is given the authority and responsibility for planning and controlling the work of a group through close contact. It can include anyone who directs the work of others by giving instructions on operations; coordinating specialist departments; recommending courses of action to management.’

Betts goes further to describe the 5 key qualities of a supervisor, which can be broken down into:

  1. Drive: vitality and energy. Constant physical and mental fatigue can impair judgement and demoralising for subordinates.
  2. Leadership: as will all roles involving people, good leadership and the right style of leadership is key.
  3. Intelligence: a good supervisor will demonstrate and have a good level of intelligence, to rationalise, assess and make judgements and decisions correctly.
  4. Skills and Knowledge: a good supervisor will have demonstrable skills and knowledge of the process or discipline they are leading
  5. Character: they will have a good character, be trustworthy, honest, honourable.

These can be further broken down into distinguishable attributes of:

  • Communication (Inter and Intra personal skills, Verbal, Non Verbal) – what you say and how you say it, what you communicate without words, e.g. body language, how you portray yourself to others, engage and control conflict.
  • Active Listening Skills – how you interpret both the verbal and non-verbal messages sent by others.
  • Negotiation – working with others to find a mutually agreeable outcome, conflict management.
  • Problem Solving – working with others to identify, define and solve problems.
  • Decision Making – exploring and analysing options to make sound decisions.
  • Assertiveness – being able to communicate your values, ideas, beliefs, opinions, needs and wants freely
  • Team building: getting the best out of your team, motivation, harmonious and productive relationships
  • Performance Management: coaching/mentoring, getting the best out of individuals
  • Planning and Organising: good time management and delegation skills

These are not definitive – and like all ‘Top 10’, ‘The Best of…’ kind of lists can be interpreted in many ways, but is certainly a good starting point for discussion.

The Supervisor is sometimes seen as the key buffer between operators (operatives) and management.  They are pivotal in getting the company’s plans from conception through to implementation.  ‘Supervisors are those who make it happen.’

It is a hard position to be in, as the role constantly faces pressure from below, the team, colleagues and peers; and, at the same time, the Supervisor is accountable to their own line manager and the pressures from higher management.

To conduct the role effectively and efficiently a good Supervisor needs to understand human relations, have good interpersonal skills, apply the art of delegation, problem solve, and be responsible for the health and safety of your work team, and in doing so the organisation.

The Supervisor is often thought of as the ‘backbone’ of the organisation, and to highlight this point I created the following diagram to amplify this point:

The innovative, as well as highly interactive OSBM training course: ‘Building Core Supervisory Competencies: Self-Management, Managing People and Managing Performance’ delves into the important role of the Supervisor in an organisation.  In particular, it identifies and develops the key competencies required to be a Supervisor in this fast paced, technological world with all the complexities the new working life brings.

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