Becoming a Star Supervisor Part 2: Six Key Skills

By Jennifer Craig | July 11, 2012

Last week, in Becoming a Star Supervisor Part 1, I addressed the expense of employee turnover and shared the Top Five Reasons Employees Leave their Jobs. I explained why its critical for companies, large or small, to train their supervisors how to properly and efficiently manage people so that good employees stay on. This week’s post shares six critical skills supervisors should master to keep employees happy and productive.


  • Listen (not superficially but actively)
  • Request feedback (clarification) to ensure they are hearing what their staff is truly saying
  • Ask open-ended questions (those that require answers other than yes and no)
  • Keep their staff informed (no surprises about work or changes)
  • Maintain an open-door policy (meaning their staff can approach them when problems occur)
  • Get all the facts (asking questions and feedback from everyone) before making decisions
  • Clearly communicate goals and expectations
  • Have regular staff meetings
  • Send out communiqués as needed


  • Structure the work in a logical manner
  • Plan for clearly understood outcomes
  • Prioritize activities
  • Set goals; both short-term (less than a year) and long-term (1 to 5 year)
  • Know employees’ skills, abilities, and knowledge (for delegation)
  • Keep office and work areas uncluttered
  • Keep good records (especially employee interactions)
  • Avoid waste and overspending


  • Manage workflow
  • Select the best person for the assignment
  • Clearly explain the job and why it is important
  • Communicate the results wanted (recognizing people perform in different ways but will be evaluated on the results)
  • Describe responsibilities along with authority (circumstances that might arise and when to notify the supervisor)
  • Provide timetables (checks and balances or controls) – how much and when things are reported; overall deadline; and final review
  • Solicit concerns, general questions, and possible barriers
  • Follow up according to timeline so there are no surprises or misunderstandings
  • Do not micro-manage (standing over the employee’s shoulder or ask others how the person is doing).


Star supervisors must recognize they cannot motivate anyone. Individuals must be self-motivated, but supervisors can:

  • Create a positive environment
  • Handle problems immediately
  • Know staff members and what motivates them
  • Provide opportunities for people to try new things, submit ideas, and have responsibility
  • Recognize good work openly (don’t recognize poor work publicly)
  • Give credit where credit is due
  • Provide learning opportunities
  • Base performance increases on performance not longevity


  • Are fair (able to see both sides) with all employees
  • Gather and examine all the facts
  • Get support from higher management and/or HR to ensure all are on the same page
  • Clearly communicate the problem
  • Get a consensus from the employee regarding the problem
  • Seek an answer to the problem (from the employee as well) during the process
  • Describe the disciplinary policy (i.e. 1st incident is a oral reprimand; 2nd is a written one; 3rd a demotion or probation; 4th dismissal; or whatever it is) and have them sign it
  • Initiate coaching and/or counseling sessions (as needed; if needed)
  • Set a follow up date/session

Greatest Boss


  • Can quickly get a grasp of the problem
  • Are able to see potential problems based on various actions
  • Can strategize alternative outcomes (prior to making decisions)
  • Understand cause and effect
  • Are able to make decisions in a timely manner
  • Can handle conflict without blowing up or withdrawing
  • Are able to admit mistakes and take responsibility for team problems (rather than blaming)
  • Are good at problem solving (able to see all sides of an issue)
  • Stay on top of the problem until it is resolved in a favorable manner

About the Author

Jennifer Craig

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