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Supervisory Skills 101 Most managers would say that good employee supervision is about results. But will supervisors who demand immediate and unquestioning compliance with their orders always obtain the best results? Whether or not you have the official title of "supervisor," if you are in a position that requires you to direct the activity of others, a periodic review of your supervisory skills may bring you better results. Supervision is about building working relationships with employees. Building a trusting relationship takes time. But when supervisor and employee trust one another, both of their thoughts and efforts can be applied to each situation. The likelihood of time-wasting conflicts is reduced. The supervisor needs to be able to trust the employee to get assigned tasks done in a satisfactorily manner. The employee needs to be able to trust the supervisor to support and compensate him fairly. Employees have high expectations for leadership in the workplace. They want to be treated with dignity and respect. A strong working relationship builds the necessary commitment to get the work done. One of the most challenging aspects of supervision is evaluation of employee performance. Evaluations should be much more in-depth than a simple judgment by a supervisor about an employee's performance. Evaluations can be a tool to improve performance by establishing goals for and recognizing outstanding performance. Conducting formal evaluations of employees on a routine basis ensures that there is adequate communication between employer and employee. Constructive feedback is a powerful tool to reinforce desired behavior because everyone likes to receive positive feedback on work well done. Good supervisors provide training and development for their employees and are glad to make the investment in refining employee skills. This can benefit the employer by retaining employees and meeting future business needs. Many employees want to have the opportunity to take on new responsibilities and grow with an organization. Providing training and development opportunities will enable them to do this. They will be less likely to look elsewhere for work if they are satisfied with the work and future possibilities. For instance, the work nearly everyone does now involves some interface with technology. If an organization has kept technology current and has provided training for employees in using that technology successfully, employees will be more likely to stay. More and more supervisors are relying on coaching skills for self-directed employees as opposed to directing employees to perform certain tasks. With all of the demands that fall to today's managers, delegating work and supporting employees with coaching is a better fit. Often, a supervisor's work includes resolving conflicts and managing diversity. Conflict resolution is a critical skill for those who wish to get work accomplished through others. Maintaining a safe workplace is another primary supervisory responsibility. Setting high standards for safety communicates to employees that they are important and valued at the same time it encourages employees to do their part in maintaining a safe work environment. Concern for regulatory compliance has grown in importance for many employers. For instance, environmental regulations require the safe disposal of hazardous materials. Responsible supervisors will ensure their employees are trained on safe handling and disposal of hazardous waste. Sharpening your supervisory skills is one of the most effective investments you can make in your company. It will result in better performance, greater employee satisfaction, a safer and healthier environment, a positive workplace and, ultimately, an improvement to the bottom line. Supervisors are the key link in any organization between upper management and lower- level employees. Their unique role in the organization's success cannot be overlooked; supervisors have a large influence on employee behavior, efforts and performance through the use of effective supervisory skills. New supervisors are held accountable for positively affecting the growth and development of a company while improving the bottom line. Skills 1. Effective supervisors must gain the trust and respect of their workforce by displaying the following supervisory skills: leadership, delegation, time management, problem-solving skills, sound decision making, desire to train and develop employees, effective communication, ability to motivate workforce toward desired goals, performance evaluations, knowledge of legal responsibilities, and strong values and beliefs. Significance 2. Effective supervisory skills, when used properly, increase employee productivity, result in a higher frequency of goal achievement, lessen workplace stress and increase employee morale. Building working relationships with all employees is the first step in becoming an effective supervisor; the commitment, trust, support and effects of this working relationship can only improve with the correct use of supervisory skills. Leadership 3. Leadership is a widely used, broad term that reflects a unique, complex skill set that is crucial in any supervisory or managerial position. Leadership is more than just motivating a workforce; leadership is leading by example, using power to empower others, making informed decisions with others in mind, having strong values and beliefs, understanding legal responsibilities and ramifications, and the ability and desire to train and develop employees. A true leader shows employees firsthand how to manage their time, solve problems, and communicate effectively, and demonstrates how to work and live by values and beliefs rather than just talking about it. An effective supervisor should use his authority to empower employees and give them their own sense of responsibility and accountability coupled with recognition and rewards. Lastly, leadership is earned through the true desire to train, develop and provide employees with the necessary tools to continue to improve and achieve success in the workplace. Motivation 4. Without the skill and ability of motivating a workforce, supervisors have an impossible time improving the bottom line. One of the easiest ways to increase motivation is by using performance evaluations. Employee evaluations not only improve performance and increase motivation by setting goals and rewarding performance, but--if done properly--evaluations also improve communication between the supervisor and her employees. These improved lines of communication go a long way in gaining the trust and respect of the workforce as well as building successful working relationships. Warning 5. Supervisors need to be aware of what not to do just as much as what skills are needed and helpful. The following actions and skills should be avoided for all supervisory positions: reprimanding employees around other employees, not delegating power, providing mediocre or no feedback at all, siding with certain employees, and being distant with employees. ========================================== Supervisor 1. A supervisor is team leader, coach, overseer, area manager or facilitator in a company or a department of a company they work for. The job of the supervisor is to properly instruct the employee on how to perform their work duties. When employees' productivity is down, the supervisor will be held accountable by their superior. Time Management 2. The supervisor is responsible for assuring that the employees are using their paid work time to do company work. Companies do not like to waste money, and wasting time is wasting money. Therefore, the supervisor must monitor the employee occasionally, and ensure they are using their time effectively. Productivity is what the company pays for, and if an employee is surfing the Internet, or taking personal calls all day, they are not using their work time to be productive. Controlling The Working Environment 3. When problems arise with workers, an effective supervisor will rectify the situation immediately. When co-workers are in an intense environment, they tend not to work well. The supervisor will need to use her skills to come to some type of resolution that will not keep productivity of their department down. If a supervisor does not have the skills to ease tension, this is can cause higher management to question their supervising skills. Delegate Tasks 4. An effective supervisor will delegate jobs and use their authority ethically. Everyone knows that the supervisor in their department is their boss, so the supervisor does not have to broadcast this daily. If an employee slacks on the job, this will be an instance when the supervisor will have to use his authority in a positive way, to get the employee to perform, and to perform well. Also, the supervisor will know which employees can handle what task, and appropriately delegate their tasks if they become overwhelming. Motivational Skills 5. An effective supervisor has good motivational skills. Employees often need to be motivated to perform well on the job, especially when they are handed a task they believe they will not succeed with. An effective supervisor will boost up their confidence, and tell them they can do the task with no problem. Motivation skills are also necessary for the supervisor in cases when an employee is facing hardships, death, or other personal issues outside of work. The supervisor should motivate the employee to continue to work as they have been working, letting them know that things will get better with time and patience. ======================================= Supervisory skills Because so many companies have historically relied on the trial-and-error method in this industry to develop effective supervisory skills, supervisors have made mistakes because they didn't know any better or simply lacked the training to make better choices. Some of these supervisors learned from their experiences, improving their leadership skills, while others continued to struggle. By examining both successful and unsuccessful supervisors, certain precedents have been set. Knowing and adopting commonalities or best practices of effective supervisors provide a more productive work environment, higher morale, less stress, safer work habits, and a better advancement opportunity for supervisors. Additionally, knowing and learning from the mistakes of unsuccessful supervisors can assist managers in overcoming obstacles. Following is a list of the top 10 mistakes most new supervisors make: 1. Seizing power and attempting to hold onto it. 2. Failing to solicit feedback. 3. Delegating without authorizing. 4. Reprimanding employees in the presence of others. 5. Supervising everyone the same way. 6. Keeping the interesting work for themselves. 7. Siding with team members. 8. Distancing themselves from those they supervise. 9. Promoting an “us-vs.-them” attitude. 10. Engaging in illegal behaviors. Identifying mistakes before they happen and knowing competencies of other successful supervisors will allow for an easier transition into the new supervisor role. With illegal behavior rounding out the top 10 list, it's especially important to examine the ramifications of such actions. Legal issues Supervisors who are not familiar with legal issues may unknowingly break the law. For example, working in an environment with a collective bargaining agreement will only give them guidelines that have been negotiated between the employer and the employee's representatives. ============================== Being a Fine Boss: Traits of a Good Supervisor Supervisors have a tough job. They are stuck between the work force they are meant to lead and the superiors above them calling the shots. It gets even more difficult if they aren’t cut out for the role; some are under-qualified, others lack the character necessary for the job and still others can’t seem to be more than a grey blip on a grey screen. Said flatly, they lack the traits of a good supervisor. Good supervisors aren’t so easy to find. But you know for sure when you’ve found one. Their qualities are clear simply by comparison. There are two main sets of skills that indicate the traits of a good supervisor: Skilled Traits Character Traits Skilled Traits The skilled traits of a good supervisor are defined by how the supervisor approaches the job itself. A good supervisor is first and foremost knowledgeable about his job—about the work his charges are meant to accomplish. But the supervisor doesn’t merely command or preach with this knowledge, he teaches, and, at times, counsels as well. He initiates with a can-do attitude. He sets the tone of the work place and the staff. He sets the pace for the work and the direction towards that goal. Character Traits The character traits of a good supervisor have a slightly different focus. These have more to do with how supervisors care about their people. Thus, compassionate qualities are an important part of the character traits of a good supervisor. Supervisors need to be loyal and honest. They need to care about their employees on both a personal and professional level. Employees can trust loyal and honest supervisors—especially when it’s time to go to bat for them. Moreover, honesty and loyalty are key components to a healthy culture in the workplace. Fairness and empathy are also key character traits of a good supervisor. When either office politics or personal emergencies rise up, employees need to find their supervisor understanding and empathetic, not hostile or distrustful. But it has to be genuine. Fraudulent empathy is transparent and neither helpful nor becoming of a good supervisor. Good Supervisors are genuine themselves, and that naturally transposes to those around them. Honing Your Traits The traits of a good supervisor are both naturally resident and consciously honed. The traits of a good supervisor manifest in two main ways: through the work itself, and through the people at the work place. Leaders are knowledgeable about both their own job and the jobs of those the lead; they also know how to treat the people around them because they genuinely care for them. By tapping into these skills a supervisor can improve their role in the office and upper management can find more suitable people in the first place. Make the Journey Worthwhile Do you ever worry that you do not have what it takes to be a good supervisor? If you focus on becoming a better you, then you can acquire the supervisory skills that will give you a career edge and help reach your goals. You are responsible for your own success and ultimately the success of your team, so make the journey worthwhile. Improving your supervisory skills involves a plan of learning and doing, reacting and progressing - a leadership journey that can inspire your team by example. Try and implement these positive steps into your supervisory skills and enjoy the benefits during and afterward. Create a positive learning environment. Focus on your people rather than the tasks at hand and find out what makes them tick. Provide people the opportunity to receive the training they need and you'll find better supervisory skills in a better environment. Sometimes creating a positive learning environment can be as simple as keeping offices at a comfortable temperature, having a water cooler or coffee machine, or letting your staff decorate their own space. Explore different avenues and implement solutions based on the needs of your team. Allow people to make mistakes. This step is imperative to challenging your supervisory skills to grow, but is often the biggest hurdle to allow yourself to make. Mistakes can be seen as either obstacles or opportunities. The decision is up to you on which approach you might take. If you use these situations wisely you can instill confidence in your employees. Give them a vehicle to improve and help them not to make the same mistake twice. By giving employees support when they make mistakes you will build their trust in you. They will learn that you have their best interest at heart, which can improve employee morale and increase productivity. People will naturally work harder for someone who encourages them. When mistakes are made help your employees provide a solution. This can result in a bond that will not soon be broken. Evaluate what increases or decreases performance. At the end of every week evaluate when performance was great and when performance was poor. This can be of great benefit because you may begin to identify patterns of behavior - a great tool for your supervisory skills. You can then begin implementing strategies to improve the situation. Try to understand what motivates employee behavior by evaluating your leadership style and adjusting it accordingly for each employee. The more time you spend with your employees the better you will understand them, and their behavioral patterns. This can provide you with the information needed in order to produce better results. Again, it's a matter of growing your supervisory skills and enabling your team to produce. Manage differences between others. Recognize that people think and act differently. It is important to understand that people may have differing opinions. However, does not mean that someone is wrong. There can be two totally different methods of achieving a desired outcome that are both equally effective. Training your team to understand the concept of different methods can enable them to begin managing the differences between themselves. This can make your job incrementally easier. It's tough to master supervisory skills like this when you're dealing with people, but it makes all the difference in how they respond in kind. These are some supervisory skills that can improve the success of your team. Be aware of the rewards that you can gain from a strong group using your improved supervisory skills, leadership and direction. Creating a stronger team can help make the journey worthwhile. ==================================== Supervision Techniques, Steps 1-8 "Set Clear Company Goals" "Set Realistic Completion Timelines" "Ensure Proper Training and Tools" "Firm, Fair and Consistent" "Encourage Innovative Thinking" "Trust and Verification" "Advancement Preparation" "Appreciation" "Set Clear Company Goals"... Every employee must know your essential company goals. It seems like common sense that everyone know the company's overall goals. But it's amazing when you talk to co-workers who don't completely grasp it. As a supervisor, you can't just assume your subordinates are knowledgeable. I worked for an agency that required every employee to attend mandatory annual training. These sessions were designed to review agency goals in fine detail. Each employee was signed off on each training block. The purpose of the training was to make absolutely sure everyone was on the same sheet of paper when it came to understanding our overall goals. In addition, the training was updated as required to fine tune any modification to our company goals. As a supervisor, you can never assume your people know your company goals. Informed employee's will grasp and appreciate, "The Big Picture" and stay focus on what is important, and more importantly, limit what is not. "Set Realistic Completion Timelines"... As a supervisor, it's important to set realistic timelines to complete tasks. You're the expert who understands what a reasonable time to complete a given task is. If you set unrealistic goals, it says a lot about your expertise. If you don't understand this, you may be in the wrong job. But, if you set realistic timelines for specific tasks, your employees will respect your decisions. And visa versa, you will lose respect if you don't set realistic completion timelines. "Ensure Proper Training and Tools"... Having proper training and tools to accomplish company tasks seem like common sense, but it's often overlooked or underestimated by managers. It's essential that you understand how to identify skill and tool deficiencies. It's also critical to keep your own personal skill levels on par with the ever changing world of technology and trends. Don't underestimate the importance of training the trainer. You should always encourage your workers to have input on training. You set the standards, but you should be receptive to new ideas. In addition, you should require your subordinates maintain accountability for company tools and to identify deficiencies to you as the supervisor. "Firm, Fair and Consistent"... Anyone who is in charge should always remember to always be firm, fair and consistent with all of their subordinates. Being firm with an employee means they understand that there are firm consequences if they either violate policy or fail to meet company standards or goals. Treating someone fairly means to treat every employee without preferential treatment. It's very difficult to be totally impartial when dealing with a high performer versus a low performer, but it is one of the most important traits to have as a supervisor. You will lose valuable respect from your co-workers if you're ever deemed to give anyone preferential treatment. Once you lose this respect, it's almost impossible to regain. Being consistent is one area that is often underestimated by managers. Being consistent on how you act from day to day is critical. As a manager, it's important to be professional when confronted by an angry employee. When you remain calm and remain consistent with policy, you will remain professional. I believe being consistent is one of your greatest assets as a manager. "Encourage Innovative Thinking"... All managers should encourage innovative thinking. Every employee is important and will contribute when they feel their inputs are important to the company. If they perceive a lack of interest from management or no one is following through, they will cease future input. When an employee understands that their input is valuable, they will keep a mindset to look for improvement. Their inputs are very valuable to the success of your company. You can also encourage creative thinking through a formal or informal reward system. "Trust and Verification"... Trust and verification is critical for supervisors who are responsible for employees who are not under direct supervision. Trust can only be earned, but it's important to verify. This can come in the form of impartial employee customer feedback. When you delegate your authority, you're showing your trust in their ability. Supervisors who understand trust allow the employee to perform at their peak. And visa versa, those who micro manage relate an image of mistrust and that is bad. Your high performers understand the importance of mutual trust and will not threaten it will poor performance. "Advancement Preparation"... All supervisors should appreciate the importance of preparing their subordinates to advance professionally. Not all employees want to become managers, but all employees want some type of advancement. It could be a pay structured advancement. It could be a promotion in title only. But, it's important they understand that you're interested and can provide them with information on how to improve themselves in the company. It's important that you have this information in written form so there is no ambiguity. "Appreciation"... I personally feel this is the most often overlooked area of management. The basic need to feel appreciation for work performed is important. When an employee feels appreciation, they will work even harder for you. When a subordinate completes a task and does it well, tell them you appreciate it. You can never assume your workers understand how you feel about their work. A simple thank you for a job well done goes a long way and it does not cost a penny. In conclusion, these techniques are easy to remember and follow. If you understand them and put them in practice, you will stand out as a good supervisor. I'm confident that this article will help you in your personal and business life. If you like the article, please pass it along to your friends. Key Concepts: 1. An educational assessment in an important tool for supervision, but it is an on-going process, a work in progress, and should be developed in partnership with the practitioner and reviewed frequently so that both supervisor and supervisee are clear as to strengths and areas that need improvement. 2. Techniques are never entities in and of themselves, should be used deliberately, and in context of worker and client need. 3. Contracts are no good unless they are, in fact, implemented. It is, therefore, a good idea to include in the supervisory contract the procedures that can be used if either party fails to meet the conditions of the contract. 4. An often overlooked supervisory technique is to suggest readings to staff. 5. Evaluation is a process that should enhance the supervisee’s learning about practice in performing the educative function of supervision. Administrative evaluation that discuss promotions, salary increments, letters of reference, etc may or may not be combined with educative or professional growth reviews. Worker defensiveness is greatly reduced when the administrative evaluation processes are removed from learning oriented supervision, according to Shulman. 6. To be effective and constructive criticism should be used as a tool to promote growth, and the focus of the criticism is on the work, not the individual involved. It is important for the supervisor to consider how the criticism can help the practitioner and whether the criticism can lead to a change in worker performance. 7. Time management is life management. 8. The best teacher and leader is a good role model. 9. A large administrative responsibility in human service organizations is risk management. Supervisors as well as agencies can be sued for the actions of staff and supervisees. Documentation and malpractice insurance are imperative in good risk management. Supervisors must document supervisory sessions and demonstrate they are sufficiently available to staff as part of good risk management strategy. Powell’s Twelve Core Functions of Supervisors An entire course could probably be developed around the topic of tools and techniques for supervision. The focus in this module will be on clinical or educational supervision, with a focus on worker development, because that is the function that is usually neglected. While this is understandable, it is unfortunate. If staff believes the agency is sincerely interested in their growth as professionals, morale would be good and staff turn over would be reduced, saving the agency many resources in time and money in the long run. To decide which tools and techniques are to be used and when requires an assessment of "where the counselor is" and his/her role context and responsibilities. Considering worker needs and client needs provides the context for how to approach supervision with any given staff. Powell, for, example, identifies twelve core functions in the drug and alcohol field which provides a general framework for looking a counselor competencies. These include counseling, assessment, case management, crisis intervention, and others. He also suggests that such things as professional ethics, and working with incest and dual diagnosis could very well be added to the list. Powell posits certain qualities that a counselor should possess such as empathy, unconditional positive regard, ability to be a catalyst for change, congruence, etc. Those qualities along with certain helping skills such as attending, probing, reflecting feelings, etc., in the context of the job demands and the worker’s stage of professional development create the parameters for conscious use of tools and techniques. Just as we would never suggest that a good therapist or counselor use a technique with a client without a rationale based on clinical assessment, neither should a supervisor just assume that an appealing new idea gleaned from an article, this class, or a workshop should be automatically applied without assessment of the counselor and the job he/she is being expected to do. So with the above stated as a sort of caveat, this module will present some basic tools that are available to enhance supervision. Please share other ideas via the Forum. Educational and Professional Assessment Munson presents two very important tools for supervision: educational or professional assessment and supervisory contracting. He also identifies several questions to help supervisees think about their sessions with clients. Some of these, I believe, are very useful. Asking the worker to consider what he/she likes about the client and what he/she speculators, the client likes about the supervisee can bring up a lot of useful information that might otherwise be missed. Also asking the supervisee to consider how he/she sees him/herself in the client can set the stage for looking at possible counter transference issues. Finally, Munson makes a very important point. I quote:" When supervisors accept that they cannot be responsible for the practitioner’s performance, but are responsible only for clarifying the expected standards of performance, the door is opened to interaction that allows the supervisor and practitioner to engage in a process of genuine growth and development". Why do you think that is (Forum)? What are the distinctions between administrative and practice evaluations? How are they related? Supervisory Contracting People probably learn more from a supervisor by observing his/her behavior than any other way. Staff is quick to spot discrepancies between words and behavior so the importance of a supervisor as role model cannot be over stated. Like it or not, your staff is watching. If you treat staff the way you expect them to treat clients, and are open and honest with them as you expect them to be with you, it is much easier for staff to "partner" with you and respect you as someone they can learn with and from. This is not to imply that supervisors should strive to be perfect. En contraire! Supervisors make mistakes just like everyone else. It is the owning of one’s responsibility for them, being honest about one’s limits, and setting an example for taking care of oneself that are powerful positive influences on staff. What are the basic ingredients for the supervisory contract? Time Management Time management has almost become a cliché in today’s pressure cooker work world, but supervisors and staff know that time management can make or break a professional in mental health and/or chemical dependency. What are the ways you find to procrastinate and with what result? What secondary gain do you have in procrastination and what problems does it cause you professionally? There are so many demands on all of us, that to begin to even make sense of things it is incumbent on us to plan and organize our workload in some kind of reasonable time frame. Some of the frame is dictated or created by external forces, such as mandated deadlines, but some the frame can be negotiated in supervision by helping staff set priorities, taking into consideration the holistic work situation and resources and skills of each staff as well as the agency bottom line. This in fact constitutes a more specific contract because the process clarifies expectations and both supervisor and worker are clear as to when specific tasks will be accomplished. It is important that supervisors be empathic with the demands on staff and help them recognize that they are doing a lot of things very well. DiPadova and Faerman make several excellent points regarding time management. They emphasize that time management is life management or self-management, which includes "managing schedules, calendars, and everything from paper to attitudes to relationships." They indicate that time management is a personal responsibility, and means working smarter, not harder. Another important assumption in their article is that time management is a learned skill, and we are not born good time managers. In other words, we can assist our supervisees to develop good time management skills. In this regard, it is important to individualize staff, because there is no simple "one for all formula" for managing one’s time proficiently. In helping others to be organized, supervisors should be very sensitive to the number of meetings that are required for staff. Keeping the number of meetings to a minimum and keeping those to a limited amount of productive time presents a big challenge for supervisors/managers. For some reason, in the "helping professions" there are often far more required meetings than are really necessary to get the job done efficiently and well. Communicating clearly and listening carefully are supervisory skills that contribute significantly to good time management. Pay attention to the myths and the other suggestions that DiPadova and Faerman offer for your consideration. Some of them may surprise you. Identify three meeting management techniques and discuss your experience as a staff member in meetings in your agency and your experience in chairing meetings. What have your learned that would have made both experiences more satisfying and productive? What goals do you have for enabling you to work "smarter not harder"? For your staff? Please share on the Forum as well. Supervisory Liability Now for a word about supervisory liability. None of us really wants to consider the unhappy possibility that as supervisors we could be sued for the actions or lack thereof of the staff we are supervising. Paul Kurzman identifies six risks that exist in human service organizations which, if they are not addressed by agency management, could very well lead to litigation or claims of unethical practice. These include duty to warn and the duty to protect confidentiality among others. Reamer points out the importance of the availability of the supervisor, especially when a supervisee has been assigned a particularly difficult or intense client situation that calls for closer supervisory support, counsel, and monitoring. Risk management must be considered one more responsibility inherent in the role of supervisor. As a part of this reality, supervisors should document supervisory sessions. Documentation is necessary for performing meaningful and specific staff evaluations, of course, but it is also crucial as a protection in the event there is litigation or complaints are officially made against the agency or you as the supervisor. Malpractice insurance is mandated by most agencies, but if you do not for any reason carry malpractice insurance or your agency does not protect you with an "umbrella" policy, you are playing Russian roulette! What recommendations would you make to your administrative superiors to enhance risk management for you and your agency?
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