These days, outstanding supervisors come in all shapes and sizes, male or female, type A or low-key. But there’s a common thread: the best supervisors help create an atmosphere of trust and a focus on the work.
The “trust” we’re talking about is the assurance that the supervisor’s priority is the “big picture” and will do what’s necessary to help the employees.
You don’t have to be particularly brilliant to be a good supervisor, but you really do need to be right on top of what’s happening, and be proactive. It’s not about wielding power; it’s about having and conveying a sense of ownership for the work, which employees see right away -and respect.
One way to look at it: line supervisors are the “early responders” of the workplace. They’re the ones paid to recognize, react, and help their people focus and resolve problems.
A supervisor’s personality can matter, but there’s plenty of room for a wide range of “types.” Many of us have had memorable, demanding bosses (or coaches, or teachers) who had big personalities and, in hindsight, we produced for them and feel we got a lot from them. It’s true these days, however, that being a boss “character” runs risks. Fewer supervisors try to utilize the big persona – outsize gestures, raised voice, off-color jokes, etc. – to motivate their employees.
In today’s workplace, drama has become overrated. Integrity and fairness are the gold standard. Supervisors who “manage themselves” well, lean forward, want to know what’s what, are seen as helpers and problem solvers – and who also can be counted on to play it straight up – get rewarded with loyalty, positive feedback, and advancement.
Substance and authenticity really do matter. Still. Really.