If They Can Do the Job, They Can Supervise – Right?

By Candace Fisher, SPHR, Director, Organizational Development/Certified Coach
Published October 10, 2017

Think about the last few promotions in your organization. What criteria were used in making the decisions? Often, we choose to promote our high performers because they’re good at what they do, and we assume they’ll be good at supervising people who do the same thing. Sounds logical...

manager materialThe fatal flaw comes when we fail to consider the other, more important aspects of being a supervisor:  the ability to lead and motivate others; the ability to overcome obstacles and create a culture of accountability; the ability to make decisions for the good of the organization. Sure, the “hard skills” of doing the job are important, but the softer skills just mentioned are critical to success as a leader. How do we assess those characteristics?

First, we need to consider the individual contributor’s interpersonal skills and relationships with others. If they’ve not gotten along with their colleagues or if they’ve spoken poorly of others, those behaviors are likely to continue. Take a deep look at their communication, teamwork and collaboration skills. When there’s an issue, are they contributing to the problem and blaming others, or are they driven to find a solution and move forward? Do they get behind organizational initiatives or are they the nay-sayers who find fault with new ideas? Are they more concerned about themselves, their personal reputation and their ego, or with the good of the organization overall? Do they have a “we’re all in this together” focus? Past performance in these areas should be reviewed and considered very seriously.

However, they will be going into situations that they’ve not necessarily encountered before. How do we know how they’ll handle those situations? Instead of judging based on our past experiences with that person, we should ask the questions based on their past experiences. If we want to know how they’ll deliver a tough message to someone they work with, we can ask, “Tell me about a time that you had to tell someone that they’d made a mistake.” If you want to know how they’ll handle disagreements among employees, we can ask, “Describe a situation where you had to step into a disagreement and were asked to settle or to mediate the conflict.” 

We’re looking for them to do the following:

  1. Tell us about the situation.
  2. Elaborate on the action(s) that they took to problem-solve.
  3. Describe the outcome or the results of their problem-solving steps.

Of course, describing a workplace scenario is preferred, but they may not have been in situations that a leader would encounter, so they may provide an example from a volunteer group with which they’ve worked, a sports team on which they played or leisure activity in which they participated. The idea is that past performance is the best predictor of future performance in a similar situation. This is the basic premise of behavior-based interviewing. 

Looking at the “softer” skills that an employee has will help us choose the better candidate. But we can’t stop there.  It’s the organization’s job to set our employees up for success. This includes getting them the training that they need to develop and hone their leadership skills. The Management Association offers supervisory and leadership training at our locations. If you have a group of supervisors and managers to train, we can bring those sessions to your location. Some upcoming sessions that can help develop leadership skills in your organization include:

If you would like information about these, or any of our training and development programs, visit our website or our Training Calendar, or call to speak with one of our Training and Development professionals at 800-448-4584. You can also set up an appointment with us via email by contacting info@hrsource.org.  

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