What to look for when selecting a supervisor


What to look for when selecting a supervisor

A client is Selecting some new team leads.

The question posed was what to look for when selecting a supervisor? The problem is that doing the work is a very different set of skills from directing the team.

There are four characteristics that I look for in anyone when I am selecting new leaders.

Improving - I look for someone who is constantly looking for a better way of doing the work.

Listening – I look for someone who is good at listening, whose first tendency is not to push their opinion but who wants to hear people out and is then able to make up their own mind. I’m also looking for people who have the skill of listening for the emotion in someone’s words.

Priorities – I look for someone who is good at figuring out what should be done next, and who can see down the road a bit and anticipate what will be needed.

Knowledge of the Job – I look for someone who has demonstrated a deep understanding of the work to be done. The new leader is probably from the area they will be leading. But it isn’t absolutely essential; at very least they should have deep understanding of the jobs in their former workplace. What I’m looking for is that they don’t get suckered by overly simple solutions that have unwanted side effects.

The first three are part of the five core skills for any supervisor (see the inset box. However, if the person you select can listen well and has a deep understanding of the job, then they can learn the other skills.

So far I’ve been talking about what to look for when selecting a supervisor But if you’re asking about how to become a supervisor, turn the question around. What will the bosses be looking for when they are selecting new leaders? Then figure out how you can match that.

Look for opportunities to develop your skills in four areas:

Look for ways to improve the work in your area. Learn about the methods you can use to make local improvements. Study the companies that do a great job of improving, companies like Toyota and Wiremold and NorMac and AutoLiv and Menlo Innovations. Don’t worry if they aren’t in your industry. You’ll find ideas that you can use. Learn how to track the impact of your improvement activities. Learn how to convert the improvements into better work and lower costs.
Learn how to listen better. Your local college will have courses in communication. Look for courses where the focus is on listening and where you’ll get to practice. There are many community organizations that teach listening skills too. Parenting and marriage prep courses often have good content. Look for podcasts. And practice. Listen to your colleagues and try to understand what’s going on for them.
Pay attention to the sequences at work. Try to anticipate when your customer will need the material or information you provide. Think through your day and ask yourself what you can do to anticipate what’s next. Is there idle time during an operation that you can use to anticipate some future activity. Try to anticipate what your own supervisor is going to ask for.
Learn more of the jobs in your department. Be interested in the challenges at each of the workstations around yours. What makes the work slow down, and what makes the work flow? Ask about how your work could be presented that would make it easier to use at the next workstation.

If you pay attention to these four areas, your work will stand out. You will become someone your immediate supervisor will rely on. You will be nicely positioned the next time your organization looks for a new leader. If your current organization doesn’t recognize it, you’ll be nicely positioned to apply somewhere else.