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By Larry Wenger
There are many ways to describe the work done by competent supervisors. This article takes a look at a different level of description. What we will be discussing here are the personal characteristics, the temperament of good supervisors.
Not long ago, in another article we discussed whether supervisors should be enforcers or teachers. That article came down on the side of the argument which says that supervisors are first and foremost, teachers. It is their responsibility to help employees be successful… to do the right thing in the right way. No small task.
This will not happen if supervisors are inclined to be the “tough dude” and are there merely to catch people making a mistake and write them up as soon as possible thereafter. Unfortunately too many see that as their role and organizational culture often encourages them to act in exactly that way.
Some supervisory behavior is however a function of the temperament you were born with. Those who are committed to improving their work will understand their temperament and teach themselves to build on their strengths and keep their weaknesses under some control. Basically however, the temperament of good supervisors is built on the following characteristics:
1. Humility. Regardless of the problem, they do not assume that they have the answer. They are not about showing others how intelligent they are. They have learned how to listen. They don’t jump in with conversation when there is silence. They allow ideas to come from others; sometimes from the employees they supervise.
2. Emotional control. This may seem similar to characteristic #1 and in some sense it is. However, it is more focused to the importance of calmness and being non-reactive. Employees may be filled with anger, hurt, disappointment, frustration. Our job, as supervisors is to help the employee see their situation in more rational terms, so that new solutions may come to the surface.
3. Accountability/Commitment to Good Work. Does this characteristic surprise you? Here’s the deal. It is not only possible, but necessary that a supervisor allow for feelings but at the same time, insist on the identification and a plan of action to deal with the issue. The supervisory response might go something like this, “I understand what you are telling me and the situation you describe is difficult. What is a reasonable plan of action to make things work better?” Accepting the situation, or feelings of the employee, does not mean that the supervisor’s job is finished.
I hope that these thoughts are helpful as you think about the style of supervision in your organization.
Do your supervisors solve problems or put band-aids on bad situations? Do they sometimes leave you a mess to clean up? Is there a work unit or team where there is very high turnover? Are people leaving because of one supervisor? If these problems sound familiar, we can help. We specialize in helping supervisors become excellent managers of people. Let’s get acquainted. Begin by requesting my free weekly newsletter. It’s called: The Mentor – Ideas for Managers. Send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and type Sign Me Up in the subject line.