Top 5 Things Supervisors Need to Know

How do I hold people accountable and give useful feedback?

In 2018, this was the most asked question by nonprofit professionals attending our leadership academies. As we begin a new year, we’ve been reflecting on how to best answer such a complex and important question. Our Learning & Leadership team has compiled a list of the top 5 things supervisors can do to build accountability, communicate quality feedback, and become a better leader. We hope it helps you on your leadership journey!

1. Give (and get) feedback regularly and often. We frequently hear from supervisors that they struggle with giving people feedback (by the way, we also hear from people that they want more and better feedback from their supervisors). First, feedback is not an event. Feedback is a practice. Creating a team culture where it’s natural and normal to give and receive feedback can be game-changing. That culture starts with the supervisor leading by example. Ask, “Did I miss anything?” or “What can we learn from this?”.

2. Delegate intentionally. Delegation is more than just giving people work. It’s setting up a pipeline for growth and development. It’s an art form that most supervisors can continually improve upon. One of the best ways to develop your delegation skills and grow your team is to practice with a stretch assignment, paired with guidance. By delegating meaningful work to direct reports, we can help develop a leadership pipeline. What’s currently sitting on your plate that could be a learning opportunity for someone else?

3. Use clarity of expectations to improve performance. Sharing expectations and shared expectations aren’t the same thing. We all know that it’s important to set and share clear expectations with the people we supervise. Where we can fall short is ensuring that we’ve created shared meaning around those expectations. A simple straight forward example is time. If you tell your staff “you are evaluated on your timeliness at work”, you need to define what “timeliness” means to you and the organization. Is it in the door at 9 am? Is it in the door early enough that you are at your desk and work begins at 9 am sharp? Where could clarity of expectations help you and your staff perform better?

4. Reward the behavior you want. I once consulted with an organization that was interested in increasing teamwork. Despite team building exercises and the supervisor sharing with staff that he wanted people to work together, the team culture remained quite siloed and competitive. Why? Because the supervisor publicly praised individuals for individual contributions rather than the team for its contributions. People will give you the behavior you reward. What behaviors do you reward on your team?

5. Build trust. With a culture of feedback, intentional delegation, clarity of expectations, and focused rewards, you build trust and trust is the no-fail, sliver-bullet secret to being a great supervisor. As Stephen R. Covey said, “Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.”

Interested in exploring more ways to be a better supervisor? Join us for Supervising People, our latest training designed to help nonprofit professionals in supervisor roles develop the skills needed for a more effective and enjoyable work experience.

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