What does it mean to supervise?

Supervisors are responsible for the development of their team, to ensure each individual has the skills to enable the team to run as effectively as possible and that the workgroup operates to optimum effectiveness.

They offer leadership to their team, as well as training.

They are responsible for task allocation, and will also be concerned with the morale of the team.

Ultimately, they will be tasked with achieving the targets, goals and outputs expected of the team. To achieve this, they will usually offer “on the spot” training, demonstrating to staff how to perform tasks. They will delegate appropriate tasks to ensure the work is performed effectively.

It falls to the supervisor to set the culture and tone of the workplace, and set a good example. They will focus on motivating the team and individuals to achieve targets, and keep the team in line with the overall strategic direction of the company; Training employees on how to perform their jobs and then delegating appropriate tasks ensuring work is performed efficiently.

A useful analogy here is that of the football manager, or the manager of any sports team for that matter. In training they will be hands on with the players, demonstrating skills and tactics, and devising set pieces. They choose the best player for each position to produce the most effective team performance. But they don’t actually do the playing themselves, they manage from the side-lines, relying on the team to do the actual work, and produce the desired results.

Action centred leadership

At this point it is worth remembering the work of John Adair and his theory of Action Centred Leadership. He said that the team leader should; –

  • achieve the task
  • develop the team
  • develop individuals

We discussed this in this module
Team Leadership
The Supervisor will focus on all three areas of the Action Centred Leadership model, to enable them to get results, build morale, improve quality and productivity, and develop their team.

Is a supervisor the same as a manager?

A good way to think about the role of the supervisor is to see it as the first step on the management ladder, the bottom rung, if you will. So the supervisor needs some of the same skills that a leader has, but would not be expected to have the depth of experience and knowledge a more senior manager has developed, nor would they be expected to have strategic skills, or a leadership Vision for the company.

Management of the people

The supervisor takes on all the aspects of personnel management. In a large company they will be assisted in this by the Human Resources department. In the absence of such a department the supervisor will take on all these tasks.

They are responsible for deciding if a new team member is required, getting management support and permission to advertise the vacancy, drawing up the job description, placing advertisements, selecting candidates for interview, carrying out interviews. Then once the candidate is appointed they will arrange induction, training and ease them into their position on the team