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The Difference Between Good & Great Supervisors

by Neil Kokemuller

If you have management aspirations, it is helpful to know the qualities and abilities that distinguish a good supervisor from a great one. Reflecting on the best supervisors you have had and comparing them to average or good supervisors is an effective way to identify great supervisors.

Positive and Nurturing

Good supervisors are usually concerned with leading employees to positive results in the here and now. Great supervisors have a longer-term perspective. They project positive attitudes that develop an upbeat work environment and they have a desire to help employees grow and develop. They speak positively to workers, coach them through challenges, help in goal setting and provide training to get employees through skills gaps that impede success and growth.

Praises Quickly

Good supervisors often generate positive results. Great supervisors quickly pass on credit for team or department success to employees. This earns respect and commitment from employees. They also praise individual and team successes publicly and promptly to reinforce the desired attitude or behavior. A simple "great job," an on-the-spot bonus or award for a high-performer or an informal lunch with the team to reward a major project or task accomplishment are methods great supervisors use.

Ethical and Genuine

Good supervisors understand the basic processes of leading people and may have some strong leadership attributes. Great supervisors ooze ethics, consideration for employees and genuine character. A great supervisor willingly admits when he makes a mistake and works diligently to correct it. He also lets his guard down on occasion to joke with employees and build interpersonal rapport. This makes him more approachable and protects against general decay of morale that goes unnoticed.

Good Self-Evaluator

Regardless of job role, people who become great are often strong self-evaluators. Great supervisors stand out because they constantly assess their abilities and performance to find opportunities for improvements. They desire to become even better and realize that this requires diligence, discipline and commitment to growth. A great supervisor desiring to improve may realize she lacks strong public speaking skills. When leading a work team and holding meetings, effective group presentation and communication is often critical. She works to address the deficiency by looking for public speaking seminars, workshops, classes and hands-on opportunities.

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