Supervisors aren’t often thought of as employees with exemplary people skills. However, research shows that while supervisors who are considered excellent task managers are rated throughout the top, middle, and bottom, it is supervisors who are considered excellent people managers that consistently make the high performers list. Interestingly, even with this knowledge in hand, most organizations focus their training efforts on the task & technical side of supervision.
Typically, organizations look at a list of generic people skills and write them off as overly simple or disconnected from bottom line results. The hope is that the group of supervisors have picked up interpersonal skills along the way. After all, they interviewed well and must have attended family barbeques . . . right?
When we speak with training departments about the requests they receive from supervisors, we invariably hear about the desire to learn people skills. They don’t merely see and understand the importance, they live the importance of these skills on a day-to-day basis. Yet when it comes to pulling supervisors off their desks for training, the wheels wobble. No one is quite sure how to quantify the value of the lessons and therefore are reticent about training.
If this sounds familiar, pass along this article to your supervisors – it’s a list of 10 supervisory people skills tips – and don’t be shy about reading them yourself, either!
10 Supervisory People Skills Tips to Live By
1. Don’t Take Complaints Personally
Your subordinate employees are going to complain. It’s human nature to pick things apart, especially at work. Having employees who complain doesn’t make you a bad supervisor or a bad person. Like it or not, listening to complaints is part of the job.
2. Do Take Complaints Seriously
Some of these complaints will seem trivial to you, but they aren’t trivial to your employee. Don’t brush them aside. By being patient and listening to a grievance without judgment, you’ll not only be better informed, you’ll have begun to build rapport.
3. Put On Their Shoes
Supervisors are bosses, but they don’t need to be bossy. Before you hand out supervisory edicts to your employees about new tasks, put on their shoes. When you see the work issue from their point of view, you’ll have a clearer view of what their objections might be.
4. Be Optimistic Without Over-promising
Your employees don’t remember everything about their jobs. But they do remember every word, detail, and facial expression you use when discussing their careers. Supervisors tend to toss out promises when in good moods or when employees are in bad moods. There is no better way to lose your best employees than to make empty promises about their careers.
5. Use Common Courtesy
We open doors for strangers, and let them ahead of us in line, but sometimes we get so caught up in hierarchy that we forget to show common courtesy to those whose performance we rely on. You won’t lose your status as their supervisor if you use basic common courtesy.
6. Watch Your Phrasing
Leaders use phrases such as “thank you”, “may I suggest”, “perhaps you would consider”, and “great idea”. Taking opportunities to adjust the way you phrase things can make the difference between an employee happily tackling a task or dragging their feet like an angry child.
7. Make Work a Healthy Challenge
Doing what you can to break up workplace monotony can be energizing. Giving your employees new work or occasionally switching tasks with someone else breaks up what might have been a dull day, and shows you care about helping them grow.
8. Give Up Your Position of Power
Don’t push your workers around merely because you can. Remember that these are people, not cogs in a machine. Each employee you encounter is much like you. They have aspirations, feelings, and goals. Remember, they might end up being your boss someday.
9. Disarm with Charm
There will be times when you deal with employees who become angry and confrontational. Instead of launching into a conflict, take a moment to disarm the situation. Ask a question that has nothing to do with work and be genuinely interested in the answer . . . ask about their family . . . ask about the big game . . . ask about anything except the subject at hand.
10. Be a Teacher
It is your job to raise your employee’s level of performance, and there is more than one way to do so. Encourage their development and teach them anything you can. Showing a level of support for your employees begets engagement, and engagements begets performance.
If you’re a supervisor, an aspiring supervisor, or hiring and onboarding supervisors, check out our “Local Government Supervisory Essentials” course! Save $247 per student for a limited time or contact us for the group enrollment special.