Being a great supervisor requires a number of important skills, such as communication and delegation, that enable a team to run more efficiently. With an understanding of these skills and how to cultivate them, you can be a better leader and supervisor. Here are some things to consider when deciding which supervisory skills to focus on and how to be a good supervisor to your employees.

What Is the Role of a Supervisor?

Supervisors play an important role in their companies and in the lives of the people they supervise. Workers need someone they can go to for help and guidance, who provides performance feedback, and communicates company values and directives. Without this leadership role, employees could struggle to be effective in their roles, miss out on growth opportunities, and have low job satisfaction. That's why it’s important to understand the qualities of a good supervisor.

What Is the Difference Between a Supervisor and a Manager?

Traditionally, supervisors work directly with employees to keep the company running. They provide skills and knowledge, oversee employee performance, help boost morale, and ensure employees have the supportive environment they need to thrive. In contrast, managers typically have a broader focus and more authority, working with multiple teams and leaders to accomplish company objectives. While supervisors may lead more tactical, day-to-day activities, managers are decision-makers that lead the team at a more strategic level, ensuring they are meeting company objectives.

Qualities of a Good Supervisor

Any supervisor who wants to excel at their job needs specific qualities. Understanding what these qualities are and how they can be cultivated will help supervisors perform their duties better. Focusing on these qualities can also help companies improve training for supervisors to give them the tools they need to do their jobs well. Here are 11 of the most significant qualities of a good supervisor.

1. Strong Verbal and Written Communication

For teams to function effectively, supervisors must have strong communication skills. This includes clearly articulating goals and expectations, as well as being able to share the needs of the team externally to other leaders. Both verbal and written abilities matter and include things like spelling, grammar, tone, and the ability to correctly convey ideas.

Strong interpersonal communication skills can help the team thrive. These include things like frequent and authentic one-on-ones with employees, ensuring workers understand how their role supports the company’s goals, and providing transparency. Supervisors who keep their team abreast of company news and changes will be seen as trustworthy, which encourages two-way communication. To improve in this area, supervisors may choose to rehearse what they want to say, watch themselves on video, or read their written words aloud. Prioritizing communication skills in these areas is one of the most important steps to becoming a good supervisor.

2. Emotional Intelligence

Being "book smart" is essential, but when considering how to be a good supervisor, it's important to also be emotionally intelligent. That includes reading people's moods and really hearing them when they speak. People often express more than they're actually saying out loud. Sympathy, empathy, body language, cultural respect, and similar concerns all fall under this umbrella.

Employees notice whether leaders care about them and whether that caring seems sincere. The best way to exhibit emotional intelligence is the practice of empathy that really helps to understand where employees need supervisors most.

3. Ability to Delegate

If you can’t delegate, you may want to consider sharpening this supervisory skill. Letting go and allowing other people to handle tasks and projects frees you up to do other things. As a supervisor, you must be able to delegate or you'll be stuck trying to do it all and your employees won't feel like you trust them.

Give them tasks to complete, and be clear about the goals you have for them. Your employees will feel like you trust and value them, and you can focus on other tasks that you, specifically, need to perform. When you delegate, you can shift your focus to what's important for your job, and leave the rest of the work to others who you feel confident about.

4. Being Flexible

Not everyone is good at being flexible, but it's a big part of how to be a good supervisor. Sometimes, things change quickly and without warning. Being adaptable and keeping calm in the face of uncertainty will help keep employee morale up, despite potential chaos.

Maintain a willingness to change, and work with your employees to figure out what aspects of standard operating procedure could be made more flexible. Handling last-minute changes may be challenging, but it's a skill that can be improved by practicing how you respond, as well as planning for reasonable scenarios ahead of time.

5. Maintaining a Positive Attitude

Among the biggest qualities of a good supervisor is maintaining a positive attitude and outlook. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes you may have to work hard at it. But when you're down, it brings your employees down as well. Naturally, that's not a good thing for a group of people who are trying to get things done. Be encouraging, and let employees know they are capable and things will work out. Even if you have some bad news, a positive spin or angle can really make the difference for employees.

6. Passion for the Organization

Do you care about your company? Does it show? It’s a good thing to be passionate about the things you believe in. Employees often love to see that because it makes them want to share that passion. When supervisors are proud of their company, the work they do, or the products or services they provide, enthusiasm from their team will usually follow. A passionate supervisor that leads by example is more likely to have an effective team with high morale that helps drive overall success for the company.

7. Diversity Awareness

One of the qualities of a good supervisor is being aware of their diverse workforce and modeling inclusive behavior for others. Being respectful of cultural differences and conscious of biases, and making considerate decisions about language and interaction are essential. Supervisors who work to create an inclusive environment will likely gain their employees’ trust and maintain a highly engaged team.

A good supervisor values and openly appreciates diversity. When you hire and encourage people who are different from you, you learn a lot from them and the company benefits from new ideas and perspectives.

8. Problem Solving

If you can't solve a problem in the workplace, you may have to find someone who can. That's going to happen from time to time. But part of being a good supervisor includes looking for solutions yourself and solving the problems you can solve. By measuring work processes, you can improve them and solve issues that can increase the value for employees, too.

Don't be afraid to brainstorm with employees or ask for their helpful suggestions so you can all work together as a team to get things done. It's often much easier to solve a problem when you have help, and employees feel more valued when their help is sought.

9. Coaching/Staff Development

As a supervisor, you're more than a boss. You're also a coach and a mentor for many of your employees. If you utilize that role to the fullest, you'll be able to coach and develop your staff in ways that will benefit everyone involved—and the company as a whole. Asking employees what they need from you, looking for areas where many employees struggle, and truly having an open-door policy all help employees understand that they can come to you and that you want the best for them.

10. Teamwork

Your supervisory skills should extend to an understanding of when and how to gain cooperation for team efforts. Yes, you may be in charge, but when you work as part of the team, you often get more accomplished. It helps to build trust and support and create a community among workers who see that they can rely on one another, their supervisor, and themselves. Some ways supervisors can improve teamwork include clearly communicating common team goals, helping individual team members understand their strengths and contributions, and engaging the team for ideas to help find solutions to challenges. When teams and companies operate efficiently, it's often partially because workers and supervisors are true team players, invested in one another.

11. An “Always Learning” Attitude

Being open to learning and seeking advice is one of the most important qualities of a good supervisor. If you're not open to learning new things or you won't take advice or constructive criticism, it may be difficult to earn trust from employees and peers, and it may prohibit career advancement. An “always learning” attitude looks like working with a mentor, seeking critical feedback from employees and leaders, and taking time to learn to be better at your role through things like seminars, books, and podcasts. Continuing education is also an excellent way to learn more about supervisory roles and how to be the best supervisor you can.

The Bottom Line on Supervisory Skills

If you understand how to be a good supervisor, you can do so much more in your role and your career. Because your employees trust you, they’ll come to you when they have questions or concerns. You'll also see how you can improve morale and benefit the company you work for. Good supervisors can be hard to come by, and that will make your skills highly marketable. When you're a good supervisor you benefit yourself, your company, and your employees.