Understanding the Foundations of Supervision

It's impossible to underestimate just how important it is for managers to have a solid understanding of the nature of management. Whether you've been working as a supervisor for a while or if you're relatively new to having managerial responsibilities, it's essential to step back and look at what the foundations of supervision really are.

Functions of Management

There is a big difference between working as a line level employee and functioning as a supervisor. As an employee, it's necessary to focus on effectively performing tasks specific to your job, typically under the direction of a supervisor. Once you become the supervisor, you are responsible for planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the work of your department or team. Referred to as the four functions of management, these tasks are common to management jobs in every type of organization.

Essential Managerial Skills

Working as a manager requires technical, human, and conceptual skills. Many new managers are promoted into their first supervisory jobs because they have outstanding technical skills. They know how to do the job better than others, so they're put in a position where they are responsible for supervising the work of others who are performing the same, or similar, tasks.

While technical skills are important, especially for line level managers, they aren't sufficient for long term success. While technical skill often plays a role in helping people get promoted into entry level management jobs, it's the human skills and conceptual skills that separate so-so supervisors from great leaders who have the ability to earn the respect of their employees and continue to move up within their organizations. Successful managers must have strong interpersonal communication skills and have the ability to make strategic decisions based on a "big picture" view of the company.

Managerial Job Responsibilities

Effective managers recognize and are willing to perform the responsibilities specific to supervisory jobs, including decision making, training employees, performance coaching, motivating employees, and providing discipline when necessary. In many organizations, managers are also responsible for hiring and firing decisions. Managers must know what and when to delegate, and they must strike a balance between being too "hands-off" and engaging in too much micromanagement.

Risk Management Responsibilities

Supervisors are also responsible for performing important risk management functions for their organizations. Managers must be aware of the legal environment in which their company operates, including legislation related to hiring and employment practices, safety, industry specific regulations, and more.

Becoming a Better Manager

Many skills are necessary to function as an effective supervisor and leader in any organization, and those entrusted with these responsibilities must continually strive to improve their skills. By working on your own understanding of the foundations of supervision and striving to become the best example of a leader, you'll become the type of manager who can encourage employees to achieve their potential and position your organization for long term success.


Mary Gormandy White, M.A., SPHR is co-founder of MTI Business Solutions (http://www.mobiletechwebsite.com), where she oversees the firm's public relations consulting, human resource management consulting and corporate training services. She is also the author of 101 Human Resource Management Tips and 101 Successful PR Campaign Tips in the LifeTips book series and is a frequent speaker at conference and association meeting throughout the U.S. You can follow MTI on Twitter @MTI_...

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