10 Things Successful Supervisors Do Differently

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how to be an effective supervisor how to be a supervisor becoming a supervisor 10 Things Successful Supervisors Do Differently

We've all had good supervisors and bad ones, and chances are we remember the characteristics of both pretty vividly. The good ones probably stick out as people who have made a positive impact on our work lives and who made us more successful in our careers. The bad ones probably showed us the type of supervisors that we don't want to be and the mistakes we don't want to make.

Outstanding supervisors can create a profound ripple effect in their organizations. Their behavior, integrity, and treatment rubs off on others for the better. Not only do supervisors directly impact their team members, but they indirectly affect others. The people they supervise and manage frequently move on to lead others, often in a way that emulates how they were supervised.

Here are ten things that successful supervisors do differently.

1. They treat others as they would like to be treated.

Much of what makes certain supervisors more successful than others is following the simple golden rule we all learned in kindergarten: treating others as they would like to be treated.

Think of how you would like to be supervised. If you want others to be respectful, consistent, honest, fair, loyal, kind, flexible, and empathetic with you, treat your employees in the same manner. That's what outstanding supervisors do.

2. They exude integrity.

Successful supervisors have high integrity. They exude honesty, sincerity, consistency, and credibility regardless of whether they may potentially displease someone or experience some uncomfortable conflict or negative consequences. They say what they mean and follow through on their actions.

Likewise, if they aren't sure of a commitment or promise, they don't make it, because they realize that failing to follow through time and time again shows that their words are empty, gives their employees false hopes, and makes employees question their commitments.

They also know right from wrong and follow a strong moral and ethical code in the workplace.

3. They set the example.

Along the same lines, successful supervisors walk the talk each and every day. They comply with policies and procedures, follow the rules, model the company culture and values, set an example of leadership, and exude all of the behaviors and attitudes they expect of their employees.

In addition, outstanding supervisors often work as hard, if not harder, than those they supervise. They don't think they are privy to a different set of work standards than everyone else because of their role and title.

4. They have humility.

Too much pride and ego get in the way of many supervisors' effectiveness, which is why successful supervisors have humility. They don't let their title, authority, power, and importance go to their head. They don't assume they know or deserve more than the people doing the work, don't put their success and ego ahead of others, and influence through inspiring rather than commanding or demanding compliance.

They are givers more than they are takers, more participative than dominant, and are quick to take responsibility when things go wrong rather than put the responsibility on others.

5. They listen and communicate well.

Effective supervisors communicate and interact with their employees frequently and professionally.

They keep a pulse on their employees. Similarly, great supervisors are attentive to and listen closely to the needs of their employees, and respond to them accordingly. In fact, they do more listening than talking, because their job is to help their people solve problems and succeed so that they build a winning team.

6. They encourage the best in people.

Outstanding supervisors do more than just manage to results - they look for and encourage the best in their people. They help employees identify the unique talents they bring to the table, and align those strengths in ways that best fulfill their team's needs.

They understand that each of their employees is ever-evolving on their professional journey and they encourage and help them to become the best people they can be with their wisdom, knowledge, and leadership. In essence, great supervisors choose to be more like "stewards" rather than "bosses" who care for, nurture, and support employees.

7. They acknowledge others.

Successful supervisors acknowledge others, particularly their value to the team and the value of their contributions, achievements, and ideas. They give them credit for their work, point out their accomplishments, and acknowledge them either privately or in front of others.

Acknowledgements can be a rarity in the workplace, and they can truly make an impact in the work lives of your employees, strengthening their commitment and motivation.

8. They freely delegate and build capabilities.

Not only do successful supervisors freely delegate new projects and tasks to their employees, rather than micromanaging, they build capabilities necessary to produce the results they desire, and provide autonomy to complete tasks on their own with support.

9. They multiply talent.

Successful supervisors multiply talent, making everyone smarter and better at their jobs. They cultivate talent and intelligence throughout their team by teaching and mentoring their employees, bringing people together to participate and generate ideas; and giving their team autonomy, authority, and responsibility.

10. They lead employees to the right answers.

Successful supervisors lead employees to the right answers and solutions. They point employees to resources they need to complete a task, suggest people to talk to for guidance, and provide clear instructions and information necessary to do the task. They make themselves available for questions, coaching, and additional support. When employees encounter roadblocks, they give advice on how to improve.


If you're a supervisor, consider the fact that you spend a significant amount of time per week with your team members and how you might use this time to be a better steward and leader of those you supervise. Supervisors have a tremendous opportunity everyday to make a difference in the lives of their employees and create a positive, fulfilling work atmosphere.

In the end, supervisors reap the fruits of the seeds they sow. What kind of effect will you create as a supervisor? Will you manage for better or for worse?

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