The Supervisor as a Coach

Aristotle once said that good supervision is “the art of getting average people to do superior work”, but it is much more than that.

Supervisors have many responsibilities including the allocation of work, supervision of work, delegation of work as well as a myriad of other things not related to work including conflict resolution, team building as well as their own work and business development.leaders

One of the most important jobs of a supervisor is that of a coach.  Supervisors are in a perfect place to coach employees, whether that be for growth and development or correction of performance issues.  In relation to development, as a supervisor, you have primary responsibility for assisting your staff to grow and acquire new skills.  This will require the skills of a coach.

As a coach, your role is to give support, provide constructive and honest feedback, challenge your employees and give advice on career options and preparation for the next steps.

In order to coach effectively it is important to do and be some things.  Coaching is coaching, but in a work environment the coach is also the supervisor. There are some things that need to be done differently than they would be done with an external coach.  There is not the objectivity that there would be with an external coach, and the supervisor as coach has more than the usual interest in making the employee succeed.  It is much more personal for the supervisor.

It is very easy to try and ‘fix’ things for the employee by telling them what to do or rescuing them; a coach however has to have the skills to  help the employee work that out for themselves, by using questioning techniques and helping your employee to work it out for themselves.

For coaching to be effective:

  • ‘meet people where they are’ – not where you are in terms of career or skill, or others in the group
  • Genuinely want to see employees succeed
  • Communicate that this is a positive process not a punishment
  • Know what needs to change
  • Agree how often to meet and when you are going to review things
  • Listen – listen carefully and reframe what the employee is saying if needs be
  • Have a solutions focus – if there is a problem, what is the solution?
  • Leave the need to ‘fix’ and control things behind – the coach’s role is to guide, challenge, question and reflect – leaving the employee with the responsibility for changing to achieve results
  • Look for opportunities for the employee to be challenged
  • Be available and accept that there might be some things you can do to change

Coaching is incredibly powerful – both for the supervisor and the employee.