Supervisor Skills

Regardless of your industry, region or company size, there are common skills necessary to effectively supervise your team.  In this section, we’ll review the way to determine where your current skills level is and lay out how to go about creating your development plan.  We’ll also give a high level overview of the supervisor skills needed to be effective in your role.

Once you know what supervisor skills you need to develop, you can then target the specific supervisor training that would best serve you.

How do I know what supervisor skills I need to be effective?

Listed below is a chart that categorizes and details the common supervisor skills need to effectively lead your team.

Category Skill
Organization Planning

Time Management

Business Savvy

Getting work done through people Effective Delegation

Managing and measuring work

Developing your team

Keeping others informed

Right fit selection

Relationships Build trust & be trustworthy

Deeply relating – communication and listening

Coaching for performance improvement

Fostering teamwork

Resolving conflict

Emotional Intelligence Leading with awareness and resiliency

In addition to these, you will also need to be proficient with your internal operational  policies and procedures and federal / state employment laws.  They include the operational and legal aspects of supervising a team.

Examples include:

  • How to make sure your team’s time is reported accurately and timely to payroll
  • How to orient new employees
  • What forms to complete for employee performance plans, their timing and process
  • The logistics of conducting performance reviews and allocating pay raises
  • The internal process addressing employee relations issues
  • How to stay in legal compliance for certain laws (e.g. overtime, non-discrimination, harassment, recordkeeping, etc.)
  • How to submit expenses and what budgeting dollars are available

Your human resources group should have the legal aspects covered in your employee handbook and/or internal policy and procedure manual.  If you have recently been hired / promoted or have not reviewed these documents lately, it would be a good idea to do it now.  Best to know the guidelines in advance to ensure the actions of your team stay within legal and operational compliance.

Check with your manager about who to contact for the other aspects of operational supervisor training.  It’s also important to know about approval processes and how to stay in the chain of command.

In summary, the supervisor training needed to access these skills will be provided by a person or a team within your organization.

How do I know what supervisor skills need to be developed?

There is a difference between knowing the concepts presented in supervisor training classes and having supervisor skills.  Knowledge means you know what to do intellectually.  You can talk about it; you can describe it.  Having strong supervisor skills means you can effectively perform and apply the knowledge in a way that is proficient, effective and gets positive results.

I offer this distinction to you because as you identify the supervisor skills you want to develop, think about it from the context of your current results.  In other words, you might be able to tell me how to build teamwork.  What would be more useful is to determine how effective your team is working together, meeting their performance goals and interacting with other departments.  Both your outcomes and your confidence in performing the skill should give you insight into areas of supervisor training needs.

There are three ways to determine your current supervisor skill level.

  1. Self-identify your needs based on how things are going for you now and how easy it is for you to perform the tasks.  This approach has the most value in assessing your current comfort level in performing supervisory tasks.
  2. Get feedback from a supervisor skill assessment/measurement tool.  Based on how you answer a series of situational questions, assessments give you unbiased feedback regarding your current level of supervisor skill proficiency.  It does not give insight into your confidence or comfort level performing the task.
  3. Get feedback from your manager, team and/or peers.  This is often called 360 feedback.  We all see life through our own eyes and perceptions.  The advantage of getting input from others is it provides information about our actions and performance that we do not see for ourselves. 

My recommendation is to use a combination of these three, and then choose two or three of the most critical supervisor skills to focus attention.  For example, you might quickly identify the supervisor skills you most struggle with or have little knowledge about how to execute.  Next, you take an assessment and get feedback from there. Last, you ask your manager and a few others who work with you closely for input.  They could complete the same assessment you completed and answer based on their interactions and observations with you.

With this assessment process completed, there will be four reasons you might seek development in a specific supervisor skill.

  1. Your current level of competence is average and you want to become more proficient
  2. You are currently unskilled in a certain area and it is impacting your performance
  3. You have not yet been in a position to apply a skill and so you wish to gather the ‘how to’ in advance to increase your confidence level and likelihood for fast success
  4. You overuse a strong supervisor skill and it is having a negative effect on your results.  For example, if you are very strong at creating plans and sticking to timelines and aren’t able to shift when business needs shift, you might work on tasks for the sake of the plan versus because they are the most pressing priority at the time.

Creating your supervisor skills development plan

Once you complete your assessment process and determine your areas of opportunity, prioritize and determine how you will address these areas.  Effective supervisor skill enhancement will include four key steps.

  1. identify what proficiency skill looks like – what are the steps to execute and what does the outcome look like
  2. what are you doing now that is outside of these steps that you need to stop doing
  3. what are the new actions you need to take to get into alignment
  4. what are you currently doing that is working that you want to keep

The best way to gather information around these four steps is to attend a supervisor training class on the specific skill.  A good supervisor training class shows you what to do, helps you know what you should stop doing, start doing and keep doing to shift your results, and gives you a chance to practice and ‘try on’ the new actions in a safe and neutral environment.  Having practice time of a new action builds your confidence and comfort level.  It also gives you a chance to receive feedback and redirection so you can be better prepared to take the new action in a live and relevant situation.

The bottom line is that of this process to identify what supervisor skill you need that will improve your results, identify your specific tasks to stop/add or keep doing through a supervisor training class  and then practice until your are proficient and comfortable.