Leadership, Personal Development

Roles of the supervisor you must master to achieve better results with your team

A “supervisor” is a term often used for people on foreman positions in the organization. It is also associated as a term with the junior executive’s positions, who stand as a first level managerial position, just below the middle management. Generally, there are three levels of supervisors. The first level presents a person who is no longer performing operator or specialist job. This person devotes most of his time planning the work of others, making decisions and communicating. In some cases, the work of the supervisor can become more complex and challenging than the one of the higher level managers. The supervisor has to practically maintain the relationship between two groups – management and employees(workers,  specialist, etc.) who not only differ from a function point of view, but also in many other aspects like education,  skills, type, and level of expectations, identity, etc.

Supervisors are directly related to the workers/specialist levels. They take direction from middle management and “translate” it to the lower level employees. That makes the supervisor is in the role of a “bridge” between superiors and subordinates in the organization.

The supervisory role can be found anywhere. You will easily recognize supervisors in production facilities, office environment, sales and market environment, etc. Some of the main functions of the supervisor include:

  • Direct supervision of employees;
  • Planning, schedule, and assignment of work to individuals;
  • Quality  maintenance;
  • Maintaining and controlling absenteeism and discipline;
  • Training for employees; Improving work conditions and developing and growing team morale and spirit;
  • Acting as a sustainable relationship builder between employees an leadership team.


To be successful in his role the supervisor should be able to provide a positive outcome in different areas, based on experience and expertise. Some of the main areas the supervisor must act are:

Providing clear direction
This can be achieved by establishing clear goals and standards, involving people in the process of setting targets and least but not last,  being clear and supportive when delegating tasks to others.

Willing to coach  and support people
Being effective in this means for the supervisor to be constructive when correcting poor performance, supporting employees upwards and show supportiveness and readiness to help, when someone asks for them. 

Providing clear objective recognition
This is to be achieved by recognizing good performance more often than criticizing employees and relating rewards to performance and excellence.

Establishing on-going controls
The most important element here is feedback. Employees should have regular and structured feedback, focusing on development and growth.  When identifying issues, follow on them and the actions planned regularly.

Encouraging open communication
As a supervisor, you must focus on ensuring open and two-way communication. That can be achieved by showing that you are honest and direct when communicating, focusing on establishing a climate of trust and promoting it to the team.

Some other  areas you can focus on, that may  help  you  to succeed in your role as a supervisor must be with  focus on encouraging new ideas,  giving out clear decisions when necessary, understanding the impact of your decisions(on people, finance, etc.) and hiring the right people for your team, by  focusing not only  on expertise but also on cultural overlapping.  


The supervisor must be by definition a leader. As a leader he needs awareness of what is going on in the groups(group processes, discussions, the actual content of the communication, etc.),  understanding how a particular function or position can impact work and how his personal development or judgment responds to situations and a change teams course. There are several roles that the supervisor must act in while being in the leadership position within the team. Some of the most important are:

  • Executive role – he is the superior coordinator of the team activities, looking for the execution of the policies
  • Planner role – decides the ways and means by  which team  achieves results in short mid and long term
  • Policymaker  – establishes team  policies and goals
  • Expert – the source of knowledge and skills in terms of technical skills and advisory  to other team members
  • Team representative – the official  spokesperson for the team and channel for incoming and outgoing communication
  • Internal  relations controller – determines specific aspects of team structure
  • Symbol of the team – provides cognitive focus and supports the forming of team identity
  • Ideologist – serves as some type of source of beliefs, values, and standards of behavior for individual members of the team.

For a supervisor, to be a successful leader he must understand that leadership resides in the functions, not in particular person. The various functions of leadership can be shared among members of the team. When a member of the team provides a particular function and is accepted as a leader for this function from the other team members than he becomes the leader for this particular function. In the organizations today it has become clear that supervisor can’t rely only on the hierarchical position he or she holds. In order to get the best results from all subordinates, the supervisor needs to encourage high morale, the spirit of involvement and cooperation and willingness for work.  Leadership style is the way in which the leadership functions are carried out. In the researches and theories during the years we have seen four basic leadership styles evolving. The supervisor must find his style and try to balance the other three in his/her behavior to ensure great team results.  Here are the four styles in short:

  • Authoritarian style  – it focuses on power. All interactions in the group  move through the leader
  • Democratic style – here the focus is within the team and internal interactions. The leadership functions are shared between members of the team who have greater say in team dynamics.
  • Genuine laissez-fair style – it counts on leader observation that members of the team work well by themselves. The leader is making the decision to give team members the freedom to work on their own without being interfered form him/her. This style is some kind of abdication from the leadership role of the leader.
  • Situational style – here the leadership behavior is determined by two factors – personal characteristics of team members and the nature of the task. Leadership behavior is based on the willingness to help the team members and the needs of the team members for help. Leadership behavior is motivational to the extent it provides necessary direction, guidance, and support, and remove obstacles which can hinder goals achievement.     


A supervisor is often required to make decisions in different situations.  Decision making is the foremost aspect of this role of responsibility. It is quite often responsible for far-reaching consequences. It may be defined as the solution among alternatives to a course of action. The process of decision making has several  important features:

  • Decisions are made to achieve identified and classified goals;
  • The process is extremely dynamic;
  • Decisions are made in relation to the environment
  • The decision maker has the right to act in a certain way  that has been chosen
  • Decision making is an ongoing process and requires a change in first decisions if the environment requires it
  • The whole process of decision making is intellectual and rational

There are several  types of decision a supervisor can take, based on factors from the environment:

  • Institutional decisions – they  relate to scheduling activities as per agreed plan
  • Strategy  decisions –  they  involve the implementation of the institutional decisions
  • Programmed decisions – they  are applied to  routine problems and repetitive work
  • Non-programed decisions – they deal  with  problems that result from unstructured situations 
  • Initiative forced decisions
  • Personal  decisions
  • Individual  or team decisions

Decision making is a complex process. Decisions do not occur in a vacuum. There is a structured process of decision making. This process goes through a series of steps which a supervisor must take carefully. I will list them in short here for you:

  • Recognizing, defining and limiting the problem
  • Analyzing and evaluating the nature of the problem
  • Establishing criteria by  which solution will be judged as acceptable
  • Discovering alternative solutions
  • Collecting data
  • Selecting the best solution
  • Converting decision into an active action

But when putting the process od decision making in practice the supervisor must also know that there are various other factors that can influence the effective decision making. These factors can be summarized in two large groups: Personal values and organizational culture and level of employees involved in the decision-making process.

Making a great decision means for the supervisor to have in his mind these two factors and influence them the best way it can.


People often think that the hardest roles in an organization are those who are set up on the top. By many types of research it has been proven that as closer to the top of the organization a particular leader is positioned, the less he knows about what really happens in the kitchen of the organization. The supervisor role is crucial for ensuring operative execution on global goals and needs of the organization. The supervisor is the glue that sticks together senior leadership team global thinking and plans with employees understanding and readiness to understand and act based on that vision and goals.  So, the hardest move is always the first one, but if you become a successful supervisor you will easily move ahead to more strategic roles in every business and organization.

Are you now ready for the supervisory challenge…? 


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