Supervisor – monitor and develop

As a supervisor, you play a key role in how your employees experience their work and workplace. Talk to your employees, collect feedback from them and develop your activities together with them.

Discuss and collect feedback

Keep abreast of how your employees are doing, their thoughts and feelings. The best way to do that is to talk to them. Regularly and in a peaceful setting, one-on-one, preferably once a week or every two weeks. Agree on the frequency of the discussions together with the employee. Development discussions or performance reviews, which you are likely to hold once or twice a year, are a good addition to these day-to-day conversations. However, they should not be the only occasions when you talk one-on-one with your employees.

Agree with your employees on what these everyday discussions at your workplace should be like. You can discuss matters that seem relevant to your employee, or you can agree on the topics to be covered beforehand and prepare for the discussions. If your employee draws up an agenda for the discussion and sends it to you beforehand, you can both prepare for the discussion. That allows for efficient discussion and ensures that your employee gets what they need from you.

Develop a positive workplace culture

Also hold discussions with your whole team. Address together the issues raised and the results of your workplace’s personnel survey, if available. Take time to think about how you will develop specific areas. Ask your employees for feedback on your leadership. Also ask them to contribute ideas and suggestions for developing their work and your shared ways of working. That enables you to help them even better.

By having a dialogue, you build a workplace culture in which supervisors’ genuine interest in employees’ work, thoughts and feelings is part of everyday life.

Develop psychological safety

Psychological safety means your employees’ perceptions and beliefs regarding what will happen if they make a suggestion, voice their opinions, show weakness or vulnerability or ask “stupid” questions. When your

experience psychological safety, they feel comfortable experimenting, asking questions and making suggestions without the fear of being humiliated or embarrassed. A shared sense that everyone’s opinion is valued is a good hallmark of psychological safety.

The following seven questions will help you assess the level of your workplace’s psychological safety:

  1. Are we comfortable taking risks when interacting with one another?
  2. Is it easy for us to talk about difficult topics and issues?
  3. Can every one of us make our voice heard?
  4. Is it easy for us to ask for help from one another?
  5. Do we understand that people make mistakes and do we support a person who has made a mistake?
  6. Do we embrace diversity?
  7. Do we value and respect each other’s work?

Discuss these considerations actively with your employees. Also consider how your own behaviour reflects them, and be a good example. By leading by example you can have a significant impact on interaction and well-being at your workplace and promote your employees’ mental health.

Also look after yourself and develop your competences

Being a supervisor is a specific role at work. It involves tasks that you find meaningful and easy, and tasks that you may find difficult or that you would rather not do, especially if you are a new supervisor or have not been trained in your role as a leader. 

Luckily, leadership, interaction, listening, caring and taking other people into consideration are skills that can be acquired and improved. Develop your competences, train and dive into the various areas of supervisory work. Ask your employees for feedback on your leadership. Gradually, you will notice that you have made progress in all areas, both the ones you thought were difficult and the ones you thought you already mastered. Your work as a leader will get easier and you will feel that you are succeeding at it.

Talk to other people and look after yourself

You are not alone with your leadership and supervisory issues. Your work will get easier if you talk to other supervisors or external coaches about it. You will realise that most supervisors are battling with the same issues, questions and problems. You can support and guide one another by listening to each others’ concerns and sharing good practices.

It is important that you treat yourself with the same care and respect as you treat your employees. The example you show has a decisive impact on creating a good workplace culture at your workplace. If you do not allow yourself to have the same thoughts and feelings as your employees, you are sending them a conflicting message.