Five keys to being a successful supervisor

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Paul J. Smith
  • 509th Maintenance Squadron
Supervision is the first line of management in any organization. Supervisors are charged with encouraging and motivating members of a work center to work together to accomplish the organization's goals and objectives.

The supervisor's work involves planning, organizing, staffing, motivating and controlling. Along with these skills the supervisor must have technical, human relation, administrative and decision making skills.

But what really makes a supervisor successful? I've learned five key characteristics from my first supervisor John Shy back when I was a senior airman transitioning through the ranks of buck sergeant and staff sergeant.

The first characteristic I learned from Mr. Shy was that I must have the ability and willingness to delegate and to step back and let others perform the work because my new role was to supervise and direct. Delegation allows you to make the best use of your time and skills while helping others to grow and develop to reach their full potential. You can build a strong and successful team by properly using delegation.

Use of authority
Successful supervisors ensure the proper use of their authority while some supervisors let their newly acquired authority go to their heads. Authority not only conveys power but responsibility as well. It is sometimes difficult to remember that the use of authority alone does not get the support and cooperation of subordinates. The approach a leader takes can lead to failure or success. Learning when not to use authority is often important as learning when to use it. Here are a few tips to properly use authority to get things done: 1. Make polite and clear requests, 2. Explain the reason for request, 3. Follow up and answer any concerns or questions, 4. Show sincere appreciation for a job well done.

Set a good example
Supervisors must always remember that the entire work center looks to them to set the example. Subordinates expect to be treated fair and equitable by their supervisor and often too many supervisors play favorites and treat subordinates inconsistently. Successful supervisors make fair and firm decisions that are in the best interest for completing the organization's goals and objectives. It is a good idea to perform a self evaluation and identify and appreciate the things you do well and acknowledge the things that need to be improved upon. Use your behavior and attitude to set the tone for an effective work environment and be aware of the impact your behavior has on the work center. This also involves doing what is right and remembering to always set the example both on and off-duty.

Recognize the change in role
Airmen who have been promoted into supervisory positions must recognize that their role has changed and that they are no longer one of the gang. Remember that being a supervisor may require some unpopular decisions and now you as a non-commissioned officer and supervisor have the responsibility of enforcing standards. Supervisors are the connecting link between the higher levels of supervision and the Airman ranks and they must learn to represent both groups.

Desire for the job
Many people who have no desire to be supervisors are promoted into supervision merely because of their technical skills. Regardless of one's technical skills, the desire to be a supervisor is necessary to be a successful supervisor. That strong desire must encourage a person to develop the skills such as human relation, administration and decision making necessary to be a supervisor.

These five key characteristics to supervision are what I remember most out of all the lessons Mr. Shy taught me and they have helped me become a successful supervisor. My advice to new supervisors is to grasp these five key characteristics and utilize them during the performance of your duties and you will be successful.