Essential Skills of Supervision

Skill 1: Managing Yourself

Your ability to be successful in your organizational role begins with how well you manage yourself, and that's pretty much up to you. But understanding yourself is the first step if you want to become truly effective personally and professionally. Self-knowledge is the first requirement of self-management.

Skill 2: Communicating for Results

How well you communicate, and how effective you are at using all methods of communication, have a great deal to do with your individual success and the success of your team and organization. When we examine why a manager's career derails, we often find poor communication skills are a significant part of the problem. As a manager, you will often use verbal and written communication to prompt another person to behave in a certain way or accomplish a specific task. Regardless of your purpose, you want to create, transmit, and receive information as effectively as possible. At the same time, you want to build understanding and enhance your working relationships.

To communicate effectively, you need to be able to balance four major components:

  • Listening
  • Written communication
  • Verbal communication
  • Nonverbal communication

Skill 3: Building Successful Relationships

Your success as a leader will be built on a foundation of two things: (1) your ability to get things done or accomplish tasks, and (2) your ability to forge and sustain positive relationships with other people. True leadership means focusing on both tasks and relationships. No matter how driven, focused, and hardworking you may be, you won't be effective in life unless you can develop solid, healthy relationships. In today's organization your ability to build successful relationships with employees, peers, your boss, and customers is a key skill – one that can help move you and your unit ahead or significantly hold you back.

Skill 4: Managing Others

Learning to manage others is at the heart of becoming a successful supervisor and, frankly, it has very little to do with filling out an annual performance appraisal form. Effective management is the cumulative result of your daily interactions with those you supervise. And that is where real leadership in management is demonstrated every day. Ultimately, you aren't going to be able to lead your team effectively unless you're adept at managing the performance of the people you supervise.

Skill 5: Managing Change

Almost everyone agrees that the pace, degree, and effects of change on our daily lives is increasing. And many of us don't like it! Whether the amount, rate, and scope of change is accelerating in your own life or not, we all live and work in an environment where change is pretty much a constant. In fact, many assert that change is the only constant in daily life. You can definitely count on things being different in the future than they are today.

Skill 6: Solving Problems & Making Decisions

Supervisors and managers make decisions – lots of decisions – every day. Most of the time those decisions are made more or less automatically; we make choices almost without thinking. That's fine for many routine issues, but other decisions require careful thought. They carry the potential for far-reaching consequences; you need to consider alternative approaches, weigh the options, and then make the decision carefully.

Problems crop up every day. Some can be solved based on your previous experience. Other problems are not routine, but they're fairly simple and the correct solution is obvious based on common sense. Still others are simple, there are several workable solutions, and which alternative you select really doesn't matter much.

But as your responsibilities increase, you will face complex problems that require more sophisticated problem-solving and decision-making skills. In addition to the more objective, logical techniques and skills typically associated with problem solving, you'll need to use your own intuition – your "gut feel" for what the best choice might be in any given situation. If you want to be truly successful as a supervisor and manager, you must develop and practice your problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Skill 7: Leading & Empowering

No matter where you work or what you do, if you are going to be effective in managing your team and getting the job done, you will need to be a leader. If managing yourself (Skill 1) is the foundational skill that begins your path to success, then leadership helps you expand beyond yourself and your immediate team. Becoming a leader provides you with a chance to dramatically widen your sphere of influence.

Both leadership and management involve acquiring and developing knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Once you are reasonably adept at Skills 1 through 6, you will be ready for Skill 7 – Leading & Empowering.

Skill 8: Growing Yourself

All of us have some ideas about how we'd like to grow and improve. You may want to get better at providing performance feedback to your employees and coaching them about your expectations. Or you may want to improve some aspect of your communications skills. Perhaps you want to improve your organizational, personal productivity, decision-making skills. Or you might want to develop your skills in more "big picture" areas, such as strategy, teamwork, or project management.

As you think about your current job, are there areas that could stand some improvement? What kind of job would you like to do next? What skills do you need to acquire to be ready if the opportunity comes along? Whatever your current situation, start thinking and behaving like your growth and development is your own responsibility. Because it is.