This is not a new question, it’s been around a long time. What is clear is that a good supervisor is ‘worth his or her weight in gold’. It’s an important function in any organisation and the real question is, are we spending enough time and energy supporting those who are appointed as supervisors? Supervisors need two skillsets. (maybe more, but today I was thinking about two that really make a huge difference)
The first are the skills involved in the TASK they are supervising. So if the supervisor is supervising machine operators in a food factory, they should be experts in operating and problem solving on the machine. In addition there is knowledge of the food product, food safety and health and safety. Expertise in this area gives the supervisor confidence to supervise his or her team and also gives confidence to the people being supervised. This is the reason supervisors are often promoted from within.
But then there is the second skillset, the skill of leading people. Although these skills, and there are a complex combination of skills here, are called ‘soft skills’, they are in fact very hard to acquire and to do well. Some people seem to have a natural aptitude it pick up these skills, but to others this is a long and hard process. And to be sure, like any skill in life, no two supervisors are going to end up with the same ability to execute each of the complex skills that make up the skillset of supervisory leadership. Our 2 day Supervisory Leadership course attempts to give supervisors a taste of just some of these skills. But to make a difference, they have to come prepared to change, to try out the new knowledge and skills on the job and (a very big AND), to receive support and ongoing coaching back on the job. I say it again because it’s worth repeating - You cannot expect a person who has been on a course to change much, if you don’t give them the support, tools, encouragement, opportunity, time ongoing coaching.
My advice? Take time to identify the competencies required by each of your supervisors, take time to evaluate, with their input as well, their level on each of the competencies. Help them develop the skills and knowledge identified, supporting them all the way. It’s a big job and you may want some help, but it’s important, it makes a difference and it’s rewarding, in more ways than one.