Being a better supervisor – top tips from me

Last night I had a drink with a young friend, a former colleague from the job I have just left, who is a supervisor, as was I. Inevitably we got talking about work and he asked me how to be better at his job on days when he is running the shop. The answer is quite simple really:

  1. Know your team
  2. Delegate
    • Work collaboratively

Let me elaborate.

Know your team
Every member of staff has aptitudes and abilities, it is your job when in any kind of management role, to ascertain their strengths and weaknesses. Play on their strengths and don’t keep giving them tasks to do that play on their weaknesses. At the end of any working day, we all want to feel good even if the day has been manic and challenging, we want to leave work feeling upbeat albeit possibly exhausted.

So, using his workplace as an example, the regular tasks are: filling card racks, serving customers, replenishing product and processing deliveries, completing shop changes by following planagrams, on top of keeping the shop in a tidy state. All this involves a LOT of running around, doing several jobs at once, some more logical whilst others more creative, some just plain donkey work.

Once you know what each member of your team is good at, then at the beginning of each day, you can delegate relevant tasks that will play on their strengths. That includes you as supervisor, you also have certain capabilities so asign yourself tasks that play to those.

A member of his staff who I shall call B, needs tasks breaking down into their component parts otherwise she finds it overwhelming and doesn’t get anything done at all. She also loves doing donkey work such as cleaning, and the shelves in the shop, especially the plinths at floor level, do get exceptionally dusty and dirty.

L, who has some mobility issues, is best behind the till because she is good with customers and it means she doesn’t have to keep stepping up/down from the counter area too often which is painful for her, plus there is always stock to replenish behind the till. C loves to be creative, feeling trapped if behind the till for too long, so she is an excellent person to give shop changes to, following the planagrams to create interesting displays that will catch the customers’ eye. J loves replenishing cards, will do it all day quite happily, especially over Christmas when there is a huge amount of stock in the stock room, she will run up and downstairs filtering through into drawers and onto racks all day.

Working Collaboratively
This is really part of the art of delegation – delegating tasks at the beginning of the day in a discussion and mutual agreement way, when in actual fact you are directly delegating as you have pre-determined before anyone came in. This method works well if you find delegating awkward (and lots of people do) but also feels very collaborative which is great for team building.

Sit with your team first thing, run through the tasks that need to be achieved that day, and then suggest what you think each member of the team might like to do and wait for their agreement  (or disagreement in which case you will find that often team members will sort it out amicably between themselves).

Once everyone is happy, then double check with each team member that they fully understand their assigned tasks; I use the following question “you ok with what you have to do?” which will usually garner the exact response I want – them telling me in bullet points the details of their tasks. If not, just ask them to run through it with you. That way if they don’t get done what they have already told you they know they have to do, you have greater opportunity for comeback.


My friends’ current manager (and my former boss), is not good at any of the above.  He doesn’t like customers and is not good at customer engagement, he prefers to be in the stock room or running up and down stairs replenishing stock on the shop floor. Most of the time he just dictates that you are on the till and he will be doing everything else as he is very possessive over his shop. It also isn’t collaborative and, as my friend pointed out, that’s what he liked about working with me – it always felt like he had had a say in what happened on that day in the shop, that we had pulled together as a team.

And that really is it in a nutshell – you are a team, whether that’s two or more of you, and as a supervisor you are leading the team in the right direction to achieve the days’ goals. Be firm, be fair, be collaborative, delegate and ultimately remember to take responsibility for your team on that day, it is “we” and not “I”.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s